Microsystems

Expanding capabilities across Lincoln Laboratory mission areas—which span broad areas in sensing, signal processing, and communications—demands continued improvements and innovation in the requisite component technologies that often are not available commercially. This fact has been evident from the enabling impact that advanced imagers and microchip lasers, both developed in the Advanced Technology Division, have had on fielded capabilities.

packaged chipMicrofluidic cyclic voltammetry chip for real-time analysis of biological metabolite concentrations, being developed jointly by the Chemical, Microsystem, and Nancoscale Technologies Group and by Professor Sarpeshkar's group at MIT.

Because of the ongoing technology pull from the Laboratory mission areas, the Chemical, Microsystem, and Nanoscale Technologies Group applies its multidisciplinary capabilities in microoptics, microfluidics, nanoplasmonics, and energy- harvesting and -generation technologies to engineer a range of multifunctional microsystems tailored for specific applications.

Many applications important to Lincoln Laboratory rely on the propagation, pointing, sensing, and modulation of free-space optical signals. In support of these needs, the Chemical, Microsystem, and Nanoscale Technologies Group has developed a family of microscale retroreflectors that can be tailored to different wavelengths and acceptance angles. These autonomous devices, on the scale of ~1 cm3, are multifunctional systems in their own right. They may incorporate subsystems such as commercially available microelectronic chips, specially engineered energy-harvesting elements, and thin film batteries, as well as various types of miniature sensors (optical, chemical, acoustic) that have been designed, fabricated, and demonstrated in the group. As with any system, these microsystems require not only engineering of their respective components but also effective integration and packaging.

Other microsystems that are being pursued in the Chemical, Microsystem, and Nanoscale Technologies Group are enabled by novel component technologies. Low-power, high-efficiency microhydraulic actuation being developed in the group has opened up the possibility of implementing truly miniaturized microrobots on the sub-1-cm3 scale. These microrobots will require their own energy sources. Indeed, they may be powered by thin-film batteries engineered into new architectures with custom form factors and energy capacity.

Other microsystems being developed in the group are geared toward biomedical applications. One such microsystem is an implantable fuel cell that generates energy via catalytic oxidation of glucose, a chemical found in abundance in the body. Such glucose fuel cells, when fully engineered, will facilitate the continuous operation of a wide range of implanted devices and sensors. Another kind of biomedically oriented microsystem involves the engineering of microoptics and microfluidics into a brain-imaging compact system that relies on optogenetics as the neuronal actuating mechanism on a cell-by-cell basis. Such a microsystem is currently in its preliminary design phase.

 

top of page