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Seen here is a piece of paper resting
on what is known as a microelectromechanical stage.
This is a new variation on existing
microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS
for short, which are tiny machines with tiny moving parts
that can be found in a wide variety of consumer
electronics.
MEMS are attractive for many applications because
of their small size and weight which allows
systems to be miniaturized.
However, over time, they're moving
parts can wear out and break down as a result of friction.
This new system that was developed
by a team of researchers at MIT could
offer a new way of making movable parts
with no solid connections between the pieces,
potentially eliminating a major source of wear and tear.
Their novel approach uses a layer of liquid droplets
to support a tiny movable platform,
in this case made of copper, which essentially
floats on top of the droplets.
The droplets can be water or any other fluid.
And the precise movements of the platform
can be controlled electronically through a system that
can alter the dimensions of the droplets
to raise lower and tilt to the platform.
For example, by applying a voltage to the stage ranging
from zero to 150 volts at a frequency of 50
hertz the researchers were able to show the stage
deflecting vertically as a result.
When the voltage is at zero the stage moves up.
When it's at 150 volts the stage moves down.
The researchers say the real innovation here
is being able to move the stage up and down
and change its angle without any solid material connections.
They say their system is relatively simple to implement
and that it would be possible to develop it
for specific real world applications
fairly rapidly if the motivation is there.
For example, as a focusing system for advanced microscopes
or using a mirror as a way to precisely aim a laser beam.
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