nanopositioner, dual-stage, polysilicon process, electron micrographs


A nanopositioner is presented that has two stages for independent coarse and fine position control. 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. Three approaches to the control of the second stage were evaluated in terms of accuracy and manufacturability, and one was selected for the design of the nanopositioner. The device was surface micromachined in a two-layer polysilicon process. Experiments were performed to characterize the resolution, repeatability, hysteresis, and thermal drift of the second stage of the nanopositioner with open-loop control. Position measurements were obtained from scanning electron micrographs by a numerical procedure, which is described in detail. The nanopositioner demonstrated 170-nanometer resolution and repeatability within 124 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.

Original Publication Citation

Hubbard, N.B. and Howell, L.L., Design and Characterization of a Dual-stage, Thermally Actuated Nanopositioner, Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Vol. 15, pp. 1482-1493, 25.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Institute of Physics




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering