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ME students win MEMS photo contest

Three BYU Mechanical Engineering graduate students won first and second place in the 5th Annual Micro- and Nano-Systems Conference Photo Contest held as part of the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences in Washington, D.C. August 28-31, 2011. Greg Teichert and Greg Holst won first place for their entry “Spatial MEMS Mechanism for Cell Restraint,” and Walter Fazio won second place for his entry “Carbon-Infiltrated Carbon Nanotube Cell Restraint Device.”

Teichert and Holst’s winning photo shows a spatial MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) mechanism designed to restrain mouse egg cells during the injection of DNA. “The mechanism is fabricated in-plane using two thin layers of polysilicon,” said Teichert.“A single linear input causes two links to rise out of plane and move inward to capture and restrain the cell between them. This image shows a latex bead of approximately the same size as an egg cell being restrained by the mechanism.”

Fazio’s second place photo is of a prototype cell restraint mechanism for use with cellular DNA injection. The two graspers at the front of the mechanism (bottom center) pinch closed to hold a cell in place while a needle is inserted in inject it with DNA. Upon release, the mechanism returns to its open state, and the cell is retrieved. The device is fabricated using carbon nanotube (CNT) forests, which are grown on a solid substrate, filled in with material, and then detached from the substrate to form a high aspect ratio, stand-alone MEMS device. This process creates devices which can operate solely using flexible (compliant) members that bend to provide motion, rather than using the hinges and rigid members conventionally used in macroscopic mechanisms. Infiltrating the CNT forest with carbon creates a structure with a high degree of both strength and flexibility—favorable material properties for compliant MEMS.

Students who wish to enter this contest send their photos to the contest organizer, who chooses several to be finalists. The finalists then display their photos throughout the conference, and conference attendees all have an opportunity to vote for their favorite photo. Awards are then given to the top three photos.

Last year, Fazio won first and third place, and Holst won second place in the same contest. The students were advised by Dr. Brian Jensen, professor of Mechanical Engineering. “These students have performed great technical work and have done really well at documenting it,” commented Dr. Jensen. “It's nice to see them receive awards for these beautiful images they've taken along the way!”