November 5th, 2003


Cool item from Physics News Update:

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are becoming increasingly important as researchers develop miniaturized mechanical devices for communications, biotechnology, and a variety of measurement applications. Often these machines include hinged parts that must be set in place before operation, which can lead to challenging and time consuming manual manipulation of components at ever decreasing scales.

Recently, researchers from the ATR Adaptive Communications Research Laboratories in Japan proposed a technique that they call micro-origami to fabricate MEMS devices that automatically move into position. The group has now tested the technique, in collaboration with researchers at Konan University and Osaka City University, by creating hinged micromirrors that lift themselves up following the final fabrication stage.

The key to the micro-origami technique is to manufacture hinges out of a pair of material layers with slightly different atomic spacings. This lattice mismatch causes a stress that in turn bends the hinge (see figure at ) and, in this case, raises a mirror above the substrate. (The effect is reminiscent of the bimetallic strips in some thermostats, which consist of bonded layers of metals that expand at different rates when heated, leading to stresses that bend the strips as temperatures change.) Once a mirror was in place, the researchers could move it on its hinge by illuminating the mirror with a high power argon laser.

It is not yet entirely clear what mechanism caused the illuminated mirror to move; the force due to radiation pressure, in particular, was too small and in the wrong direction to account for the effect. Nevertheless, the researchers (Jose M. Zanardi Ocampo, 81-774-95-1582, were able to use the motion of the micromirror to control the position of a reflected helium-neon laser beam. Potentially, the micro-origami mirror could lead to optical MEMS switches or other small devices that automatically pop into place without human or mechanical intervention, dramatically speeding and simplifying construction of miniature machines.
(J. M. Zanardi Ocampo et al., Applied Physics Letters, 3 November 2003)
PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.
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curry for breakfast

Apparently one moves to Redmond to do one of two things: work for Microsoft or open a restaurant. I'd already heard good things about the food court at the Crossroads mall, but we haven't even made it that far down the road yet, there are a ton of little places right around my mom's apartment.

Just at the end of the driveway, in fact, is a complex with pizza, teriyaki, Mexican, and Indian at a minimum. We had dinner at the Indian place last night, it was very nice. The place is called Kabob Palace, and Ted and I had been wanting to try it from day 1. How can you resist someplace called Kabob Palace??

It was quite good, and the leftovers for breakfast even better. I got what was called Salajh Paneer (spelling almost certainly way way off) which was a curry with cheese. Mom and Ted both got kabobs which they pronounced tasty.

Interestingly enough, the menu said "100% Halal" and I just spent an hour or so trying to track down what that meant. If I had been paying attention I might have figured it out sooner - it is the Islamic term for food that is lawful for Muslim consumption. The woman who seated us at the restaurant was wearing a headscarf, which probably should have been a clue - but I was determined to throw an extra 'l' or two into the spelling so had to come at matters the back way, mainly by exhausting any possibility of it being an Ayurvedic term by process of elimination.
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