Foresight Update 44

page 5

A publication of the Foresight Institute

Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5


Book Review:

by J. Storrs Hall, Ph.D.
Research Fellow, IMM

J. Storrs Hall, PhDNano- and Microelectromechanical Systems: Fundamentals of Nano- and Microengineering
by Sergey Edward Lyshevski
CRC Press (2001)
HC; 338 pages. ISBN 0-8493-0916-6

It is a welcome sign to see the "Nano-" taking first place in the title of this volume. It is also a welcome note to see Drexler and Foresight credited in the introduction.

Even more welcome, however, is the fact that it really is a book about engineering, rather than a review of the latest discoveries at the nanoscale. A book with "fundamentals" in its title should be one that will have substantial relevance 20 years from now. Can this one live up to that criterion? I would give a qualified "Probably."

To begin with, the major substance of the work is an overview of the mathematical foundations of the engineering knowledge relevant to the subject. This book is not for the mathematically weak-hearted. It's studded with equations and theorems half a page long. Lyshevski gives us a solid slab of classical mechanics, complete with Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations. He shows us Shrodinger's equation and its various approximations. There's a section on molecular dynamics and one on thermodynamics.

Then there's a sequence of applications, no less mathematical. One amusing example of just how mathematical is the section between the one on "Configurations and Structural Synthesis of Motion Nano- and Microstructures" and "Direct-current Micromachines": it's a brief excursion into how you can represent the overlap of the different techniques in a system by using Venn diagrams. To make sure you get it right, he gives you a three-page derivation of axiomatic set theory.

There follows a lot of very good stuff about electric motors, just the kind of thing you'd need to design motors at scales where the standard tradeoffs don't hold. There are even datasheets for integrated stepper controllers (very useful now, but one of the bits that won't hold up in 20 years!).

There is something of a grab-bag feel to the book's organization. The final chapter on control has three sections: Antenna theory; Lyapunov Stability theory; and AI, the latter being a splash of control system architecture, cybernetics, decision theory, and neural nets.

I would not recommend trying to learn any of the subjects covered from scratch with just this book, with the possible exception of electric motors, and that only if you already have a good grasp of electromagnetics. On the other hand, it does give you a taste of the many thing you need to know to do design at these levels, and could bring you (back) up to speed in areas where there was already some familiarity.

As criticism, I have a quibble, a comment, and a serious gripe. The quibble is that though the book is well typeset in general, the "partial derivative" symbol used is in a hideous loopy font that usually overstrikes the following symbol, and considering how often it's used, makes reading the equations a bit less pleasant than it could be.

The comment is that the text itself is very dense to read. For example, Lyapunov theory is introduced with an equation followed by "where x is the state vector; u is the bounded control vector; r and y are the measured reference and output vectors; d is the disturbance vector; F and B are jointly continuous and Lipschitz; H is the smooth map defined in the neighborhood of the origin, H(0)=0." Nowhere are these concepts explained — you just have to know what they are.

What's worse, and this is the serious gripe, they aren't in the index and virtually nothing else is either. The index is very skimpy, approximately 100 entries for a very dense 300-page book (by contrast, the index of Nanosystems has about 1200 entries). Something else I would like to see, but is becoming all too rare these days, is a table of symbols (as used in equations) at the beginning of each chapter. Needless to say, there aren't any of those.

Even so, I found the book useful overall, and it's staying on my shelf.

Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents


Zyvex Forms Two MEMS Development Partnerships

Zyvex, Inc. announced earlier this year that it has formed collaborative partnerships as part of its research program to create a microsystem assembler, capable of handling and assembling a variety of micro-scale parts. Zyvex is pursuing the development of MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) as an intermediate step toward the development of positionally controlled molecular assembly.

On 19 January, the company announced a two-year collaborative program with Standard MEMS, Inc. of Burlington, Massachusetts, to develop new capabilities for the microsystems community. Standard MEMS is an integrated, high volume MEMS supplier for high technology markets, and offers engineering and technology solutions in all areas of MEMS production, from design through production.

Under this agreement, MEMS components will be built with a process developed by Standard MEMS to combine surface and bulk silicon micromachining in one processing run. This allows Zyvex to create components that can be picked off the bulk silicon wafer and assembled into complex systems. Zyvex will use this new process to produce component libraries of electromechanical functions and manipulation devices that will lead to increasingly complex and functional microsystems.

The two companies expect to have up to a dozen different electromechanical function blocks working within the next six months. These efforts will facilitate early prototype system designs for the scientific apparatus and biomedical communities. Actual production microsystems are expected to take another 12-18 months to develop.

On 5 February, Zyvex also announced a two-year collaboration with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center for Automation Technologies (CAT) in Troy, New York. Under this agreement, Zyvex and RPI will explore MEMS assembly and packaging technologies. As with the partnership with Standard MEMS, the collaboration with RPI is expected to lead to MEMS component libraries and workstations for assembling microsystems using advanced custom packaging solutions.

The Center for Automation Technologies is a national leader in interdisciplinary, industry-driven research in advanced automation. Building on its core competencies in motion control, process control, robotics, mechatronics, and distributed software architectures, the CAT has recently initiated a major new research thrust in micromanufacturing.

Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents


Web Watch.44

by Jim Lewis

Jim Lewis
A new section on the MIT Technology Review website entitled "Nanotech + More" is one of three new major topic areas on the site: infotechnology, biotechnology, and, of course, nanotechnology.
A web site by a group of Post Doc and PhD students in the field of nanomaterials includes background material on analytical methods that are expecially useful to study nanomaterials and a list of links to nanotechnology Web sites featuring additional technical information. An unusual feature is an online journal with original short, general interest articles about nanotechnologies. The first two issues contain articles on nanoparticles, biological nanomotors, and nanorobots.
Web Watch.35 featured a list of sites devoted to molecular modeling software. A worthwhile addition to this list is the Linux4Chemistry site maintained by Nikodem Kuznik. Some of the programs listed are commercial, but most are free for academic users. There are also links to other chemical software resources sites.
The Computational Chemistry List (CCL) Web site archives posts to the CCL email list " as well as other information and software useful to computational chemists". CCL "allows computational chemistry researchers from around the world to exchange information and experiences. It was created to promote contact between researchers involved in chemistry-related computation." There are links to overviews and detailed tutorials on various topics related to computational chemistry and scientific visualization for chemists. There are also links to an associated email list and web site on microelectronics and atomic scale design.
The Nanotechnology Simulation Hub: Online Computing for Nanotechnology. NanoHub provides a variety of tools for simulation and design and promises to announce new tools as they become available. "The nanoHub is a new initiative designed to promote the application of computational science to nanotechnology. Using PUNCH, a network-computing software infrastructure, researchers and educators can access and operate simulation tools through standard Web browsers." Requires registering for a free account. It is not entirely clear just what academic qualifications are necessary to obtain the free account.
A Nanotechnology Web ring "To Educate the WORLD on the coming Nanotechnological AGE!" has links to 35 nanotechnology web sites that link to each other via a web ring. The sites vary widely in quantity, quality, and timeliness of information available. There are about a half dozen very good or excellent academic lab Web sites, and about a half dozen quite solid nanoscale science and technology company sites. There are a few dead links, and several sites are not in English. The majority of the sites are personal sites of nanotechnology enthusiasts. Some of these are quite good and extensive, and some are rather minimal. Nevertheless, a quick way to see a cross-section of who is interested in nanotechnology.


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Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5

From Foresight Update 44, originally published 1 April 2001.