Frictionless Nano-bearing

Summary Micro- and nanofabricated rotation and translation devices usually rely on the possibility to support the moving part on small dimples in order to reduce the contact area with the substrate. Nonetheless, large forces must be applied to overcome the residual friction. Furthermore, results largely vary from sample to sample, because friction strongly depends on the chemical and physical properties of the surfaces (notably, surface roughness and water contamination). The invention relies on a different concept. The frictionless nano-bearing allows the assembly of roto-translation micro- and nano-devices with unprecedented low (virtually null) static friction. In the frictionless nano-bearing, the moving mechanical part is prevented from touching the substrate by means of repulsive dispersion forces. The moving part is made of a material whose dielectric function is either much larger or much lower than the substrate’s one, and it is immersed in a liquid with a dielectric function that lies in between. As a result, dispersion forces between the moving part and the substrate are repulsive. These forces strongly increase as the separation decreases, and prevent the moving part from collapsing on substrate by exactly compensating the net gravity. In other words, the moving part can float close to the substrate without any mechanical contact. Because these is no contact, there is no static friction, and the moving part can rotate or translate in response to very small driving forces. The frictionless nano-bearing can be realized with commonly used materials (e.g., silicon dioxide on a metallic surface immersed in ethanol). Furthermore, the use of electromagnetic actuation and sensing mechanisms does not interfere with the working principle of the bearing, because dispersion forces do not depend on the presence of electric or magnetic fields. This allows the frictionless nano-bearing to be directly incorporated into current micro- and nano-technologies.

Patent Status: Pending.

Applications Nano-compasses, accelerometers, or gyroscopes, low-power MEMS; low power NEMS devices, fluidic devices; valves.

Inventor(s): Capasso, Federico

Type of Offer: Licensing

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