|18 August 2009|
Researchers are developing a new class of tiny mechanical devices containing vibrating, hair-thin structures that could work to filter electronic signals.
Because the devices (resonators) vibrate in specific patterns, they are able to cancel out signals having certain frequencies and allow others to pass.
The result is a new type of "band-pass" filter, a component commonly used in electronics to permit some signals to pass through a cell phone's circuitry while blocking others, said Jeffrey Rhoads, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.
Such filters are critical for cell phones and other portable electronics because they allow devices to process signals with minimal interference and maximum transmission efficiency.
The new technology represents a potential way to further miniaturize band-pass filters while improving their performance and reducing power use, Rhoads said.
This prototype MEMS resembles spokes attached to a wheel's hub. It is about 160 microns in diameter, which is in size to a grain of sand.
The device is an example of a microelectromechanical system, or a MEMS, which contain tiny moving parts. Incoming signals generate voltage that produces an electrostatic force, causing the MEMS filters to vibrate.
Researchers have proposed linking tiny beams in straight chains, but Rhoads has pursued a different approach, arranging the structures in rings and other shapes, or "non-traditional coupling arrangements."
One prototype, which resembles spokes attached to a wheel's hub, is about 160 microns in diameter, or comparable in size to a grain of sand.
In addition to their use as future cell phone filters, such resonators also could be used for advanced chemical and biological sensors in medical and homeland-defense applications.
For related information, go to www.isa.org/instruments.
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