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Home > Press > Scientists well positioned for success with new manipulation device

Technology for macro, micro and nano-positioning and manipulation

Scientists well positioned for success with new manipulation device

Newcastle, UK | Posted on July 17th, 2007

Researchers at Northumbria University have developed the prototype for a new
generation of positioning device that operates with nanometre precision. This
ground-breaking technology could help increase the ease and accuracy of
laboratory work in crucial fields such as stem cell research.

Called Nanomobile, the patent-pending design harnesses the piezoelectric effect to
produce a uniquely smooth movement. Nanomobile's ability to position objects
precisely over a 10 centimetre range with six degrees of freedom means it opens
up new possibilities for scientists and engineers - especially in the life sciences,
micro-electro-mechanical systems and semiconductor industries.

Nanomobile patented technology opens the previously unused ability of a piezotube
to ‘walk'. It is traditionally used only to produce micrometer actuation. The piezotube
generates microwaves on its edge. With the waves at the bottom edge it walks
across a flat surface. With the waves at the top edge it rotates a ball joint carrying a
"toolbox". The toolbox can have six probes interchangeable on demand. The
method uses hidden capabilities eliminating need for extra motors. This means
higher reliability at a lower cost. It also implies scalability of technique to suit many
applications. Centimetre travel in X, Y, Z and nanometre accuracy are now
combined in a solid device.

The Nanomobile prototype was developed with financial backing from NorthStar
Equity Investors' North East Proof of Concept (POC) Fund. This £10 million Fund,
set up with money from One NorthEast and the European Regional Development
Fund (ERDF), invests in new technology ventures at their earliest stages.

Dr. Volkov, Nanomobile's inventor, said: "We received £90,000 in POC funding to
help us build this prototype and the result is a device that is ready to be marketed
for commercial use. This is an incredibly exciting time for us and we are confident
that Nanomobile will be well-received because it operates so smoothly on the tiniest
of scales. This makes it an elegant alternative to current positioning devices that
use stepped movements. It will allow scientists new levels of control, and can be
used in a broad range of research fields because we are able to customise it to suit
different applications.

The Northumbria team worked alongside Nanograph Systems Ltd, a spin-out of
Nottingham University, to produce the Nanomobile prototype. Dr. Volkov said: "It
was a great opportunity for partnership working within this highly specialised field
and the input from our colleagues in Nottingham was invaluable."

POC Fund deal manager Dr Michelle Cooper said: "It is incredibly satisfying to see
the end result of one of our POC investments hitting the market. At NSEI, we
support technology entrepreneurs from the inception of their ideas right through to
research, development and ultimately trading. What's more, there is a continuum of
support with our £23 million North East Co-Investment Fund offering backing of up
to £1 million."

The Nanomobile team is seeking commercial partners to take this novel
technology to market and would now like to hear from:

- Manufacturers of positioning devices
- Manufacturers of microscopes (optical, SEM, AFM)
- Manufacturers of related nano- micro- equipment.

A demonstration DVD of Nanomobile in action is available on request.


For more information, please click here

Graham Hopson
Commercialisation Manager
Northumbria Commercial Enterprises
21/22 Ellison Place
Northumbria University
Newcastle upon Tyne

T: ++44 (0) 191 2437590
F: ++ 44 (0) 191 2433057
M: ++44 (0) 7974 215 325

Copyright © Northumbria University

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