Before microdevices can be developed into medical implants and other microscopic products, developers must first understand how friction, wear, and other forces operate on such a small scale. Bharat Bhushan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University, is using an atomic force microscope to answer questions about wear and friction on such a small scale. Atomic force microscopes record the shapes of objects by dragging a tiny needle with a radius less than 100 nm across the surface of an object. Bhushan used the microscope on the surface of a micromotor's rotor and surrounding casing. He detected bumps between 11 and 100 nm that resulted from chemical process used to make the micromotor work for a biomedical application, and determined that the bumps on the rotor caused friction when they rubbed against the casing. When Bhushan tried lubricating the motor with a synthetic lubricant, the lubricant gummed up the tiny motor. But when they baked the motor and lubricant combination at 150C, the lubricant became a smooth layer hat allowed free movement.
Digital healthcare devices and wearable electronic products need to be thoroughly tested, lest they live short, ignominious lives, an expert will tell attendees at UBM’s upcoming Designers of Things conference in San Jose, Calif.
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