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The National Science Foundation recently awarded Harris Professor Steven Shaw in the College of Engineering $300,000 to develop techniques that will contribute to the design and optimization of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)—devices that integrate on-chip mechanical and circuit elements—that use resonant vibrations.

These particular micro-scale devices (with features under 100 micrometers) are important elements in electronics products such as smart phones, automobiles and entertainment devices.

Most commercial devices that use vibratory MEMS are designed with the vibrating elements operating in their linear (small amplitude) range, so the designer can rely on relatively simple models to analyze their response. But this limits their operating range and doesn’t take full advantage of their potential, Shaw said.

Shaw proposes an effort to embrace nonlinear (large amplitude) behavior of resonators to explore the attendant limits and then develop and experimentally demonstrate design methods that would optimize performance in this operating realm. Potential applications include time-keeping, frequency conversion, and inertial sensors.

Florida Tech students will help perform the research and benefit from the grant with mentorships, multi-disciplinary training and new classroom materials used for the research. This project is a joint effort between Shaw and Kimberly Turner at the University of California-Santa Barbara, where the experimental component of the research will be carried out.

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