Tiny, but Tough
In recent years, we’ve heard and seen more and more about miniature machines as small as a grain of sand or even a single red blood cell. These machines, known as micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, integrate mechanical components such as sensors and motors with micro-electronics, making it possible, at least in theory, for them to perform a range of jobs in a microscopic world. As Canada Research Chair in Advanced Micro/Nanofabrication and MEMS, Dr. Kenichi Takahata wants to make sure they meet their potential.
While MEMS could have huge benefits for technology in areas ranging from the health care, telecommunication, and automotive sectors to environmental and safety and security fields, they still have their drawbacks. Some of these have so far kept the technology from doing all it could.
MEMS are made using semiconductor manufacturing technology, and, so far, could only be made from a narrow range of materials, limiting their mechanical abilities. They are very delicate and, in many cases, work only in controlled, clean environments. For these reasons, despite the potential these miniscule technologies have, few MEMS-based products have actually been developed and put to work.
An expert in micro-/nano-fabrication and devices, Takahata has taken a revolutionary approach, diversifying the materials that MEMS can be made with, discovering new things they can potentially do, new strengths that they have, and, as a result, a whole new world of tiny—but enormous—possibilities. For example, his research has already shown that “smart” implants can be made using micro-machined stainless steel, which is both tough and compatible with biological material. These implants can allow doctors to wirelessly diagnose killer conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Drawing on his extensive industrial research experience in Japan and the United States, Takahata will lead a research program to pursue new types of MEMS using advanced materials like these, and the latest in micro-/nano-fabrication technologies.
His research is expected to bring innovations to diagnostic and therapeutic medical technologies and devices, and contribute to saving lives and improving quality of life for Canadians and people around the world.