Tools and Technologies for Automation in Mirco – and Nanorobotics
Our versatile nanohandling robots are driven by piezoelectric slip-stickactuators. They are able to perform steps as small as 1nm and to reachvelocities of up to 15mm/s at a high step frequency. The robots can operate in different environments, including vacuum chambers (SEM, TEM, FIB), opticalmicroscopes and custom-made setups. To implement nanohandling tasks, the robots are equipped with suitable tools. The recently developed, hardwarebased signal generation and control approaches enhance performance and reliability of the robots. Novel high-speed visual servoing techniques allow for repeat accuracy of up to a few nm and high operating speed.
Automated, high-throughput handling of micro- and nanoscale objects requires constant visual feedback for the robot control system. AMiR develops fast and reliable methods for real-time image processing using different image sources such as SEM and TEM, optical microscopes, FIB, and also medical imaging devices like MRI. Current applications include 2D and 3D object detection and classification, object tracking, and multi-modal image registration (e.g. SEM+AFM images). To achieve high-speed robot operation with real-time object tracking we develop advanced data processing techniques utilizing embedded systems and FPGAs.
The key challenge of automation on micro/nano scales is flexible integration of different hardware and software components into a nanohandling cell. The integration is supported by a rapid automation toolbox connecting different types of actuators and sensors (robots, specimen stages, SEM, etc.). The flexible software development system allows a rapid prototyping and fast adjustment of image processing algorithms to different setups in the nanohandling cell. The nanohandling process is controlled using a user-friendly scripting language.
Robotic Manipulation, Characterization and Processing on the Nanoscale
The extraordinary physical properties of novel nanomaterials enable numerous applications. Nanorobotic systems, integrated into visualization devices such as SEM, TEM or AFM, are needed to pave the way for these applications. We develop such modular nanorobotic systems for automated, high-throughput manipulation, characterization and processing of nanomaterials. Prominent examples of such materials are carbon nanotubes and silicon nanowires. They provide a basis for novel actuator and sensor technologies and can improve existing electronic devices, aiming primarily at nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS). In addition to these 1D nanomaterials, more sophisticated 2D materials like graphene and 3D materials like nanocoils and wood fibrils are in focus of AMiR activities.
In our unique nanohandling cell we combine a dual-beam high-resolution SEM/FIB with a custom-made nanorobotic and AFM system as well as a gas injection system. This facility enables in-situ manipulation and characterization of graphene. We address the automation of electro-mechanical mapping and pickand- place handling of individual graphene flakes, in order to develop novel fabrication and rapid prototyping technologies for graphene-based devices. AFM can also be used as a robotic nanomanipulation and nanoprocessing tool.
The automation of AFM-based robotic operation on the nanoscale is the “bottle neck” issue on the way to high-throughput handling and processing of bio-nano materials. We investigate the applicability of this technology for the design and characterization of nanoelectronic circuits of DNA. Another application is the AFMbased fabrication of master structures for micro injection molding. Additionally, we look into automated assembly of exchangeable, arbitrarily shaped AFM probe tips to improve the flexibility and versatility of AFM-based imaging and handling. Novel AFM scanning methods are developed for 3D metrology of high aspect-of-ratio nanostructures.
About University of Oldenburg & AMiR
The Division of Microrobotics and Control Engineering (AMiR) was founded by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sergej Fatikow in 2001. The division employs today over 20 research assistants, including mechanical and electrical engineers, physicists and computer scientists. The division has wide experience in joint research projects within international and German research programs related to versatile micro- and nanorobotics as well as to automated nanohandling and nanocharacterization. Most of the projects have been initiated and coordinated by AMiR.
AMiR offers courses in four different areas: Microrobotics and microsystem technology (microfabrication, actuators, sensors, microsystems, and applications), nanohandling and automation, neural networks and fuzzy logic for robotics and automation as well as control engineering. These courses are provided primarily for students of computing science and physics, contributing to an application-oriented course program at the interface of electrical engineering, advanced robotics, physics and computing science.