Nanopositioners have been developed with electrostatic, piezoelectric, magnetic, thermal, and electrochemical actuators. They move with as many as six degrees of freedom; some are composed of multiple stages that stack together. Both macro-scale and micro-scale nanopositioners have been fabricated. A summary of recent research in micropositioning and nanopositioning is presented to set the background for this work. This research project demonstrates that a dual-stage nanopositioner can be created with microelectromechanical systems technology such that the two stages are integrated on a single silicon chip. A nanopositioner is presented that has two stages, one for coarse motion and one for fine motion; both are fabricated by surface micromachining. The nanopositioner has one translational degree of freedom. Thermal microactuators operate both stages. The first stage includes a bistable mechanism: it travels 52 micrometers between two discrete positions. The second stage is mounted on the first stage and moves continuously through an additional 8 micrometers in the same direction as the first stage. Two approaches to the control of the second stage are evaluated: first, an electrical input is transmitted to an actuator that moves with the first stage; second, a mechanical input is applied to an amplifier mechanism mounted on the first stage after completing the coarse motion. Four devices were designed and fabricated to test these approaches; the one that performed best was selected to fulfill the objective of this work. Thermal analysis of the actuators was performed with previously developed tools. Pseudo-rigid-body models and finite element models were created to analyze the mechanical behavior of the devices. The nanopositioners were surface micromachined in a two-layer polysilicon process. Experiments were performed to characterize the resolution, repeatability, hysteresis, and drift of the second stages of the nanopositioners with open-loop control. Position measurements were obtained from scanning electron micrographs by a numerical procedure, which is described in detail. The selected nanopositioner demonstrated 170-nanometer resolution and repeatability within 37 nanometers. The hysteresis of the second stage was 6% of its full range. The nanopositioner drifted 25 nanometers in the first 60 minutes of operation with a time constant of about 6 minutes. The dual-stage nanopositioner may be useful for applications such as variable optical attenuators or wavelength-specific add--drop devices.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





nanopositioners, nanopositioning, nanomanipulators, MEMS, microactuators, thermal actuators, TIM, compliant mechanisms, resolution, repeatability, hysteresis, drift, dual-stage, two-stage