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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Folded up micrometer-scale 'voxels' for drug delivery

After starting the folds using magnetic forces, the structure is sealed using capillary action.

USC researchers have made pyramid structures that are 40 micrometers on each side

Part one is the creation of flat patterns, origami, of exactly the fold up shapes familiar to kindergarten children making paper pyramids, cubes or other solids, except that these are as small 40 micrometers (µm) on a side. (1 inch = 25,400 µm)

Instead of paper, the USC researchers created the patterns in polysilicon sitting on top of a thin film of gold, using a well-established commercial silicon wafer process called PolyMUMPs. The next step was clearing the polysilicon off the hinge areas by etching.

When the blanks were later electrocoated with permalloy to make them magnetic, the photomask used left hinge areas uncoated, to make sure they were the places that folded.

Then the folding had to be accomplished. First the researchers bent the hinges by application of magnetic force to the permalloy. Water pressure and capillary forces generated by submerging the tiny blanks in water, and drying them off did the final folding into shape.

The experiments spend considerable time comparing various methods of controlling the closure effects of water drying with simple flaps designed to close over each other to form "envelops," the directing water from different directions sequence the closing. Varying the time of trying could produce tighter seams.