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Example of a sensor using the pattern at left, after fabrication on a piece of silicone rubber, wrapped around a small tube. (Photo credit: Tyler Ray)

A research team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering received a $466,902 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase a state-of-the-art device.

The high-speed, maskless lithography tool will generate high-resolution, controlled mechanical and electrical designs essential for advancing research in engineering, biosciences and applied physics. It will also be able to create ultra-fine, intricate patterns 1/100th the width of a human hair, across an area the size of a coffee saucer, in just a few minutes. This capability will eliminate days of tedious and expensive work.

flower-like image
Complex pattern for a biomedical sensor to be built on a flexible material. Fabrication of such complicated patterns is a routine matter for the equipment that will be acquired under the new grant. (Photo credit: Tyler Ray)

“We are excited to receive this funding from the National Science Foundation because it opens the door to a broad range of creative research activity not just on campus, but with partners throughout the state of Hawaiʻi and across the Pacific region,” said Joseph Brown, team lead and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UH Mānoa.

The UH team also includes mechanical engineering professors Woochul Lee, Sangwoo Shin and Tyler Ray; and electrical engineering professor Aaron Ohta. The award is part of the highly competitive NSF Major Research Instrumentation program and is one of 155 issued this year totaling $82.66 million.

The researchers plan to develop better processes for water purification and drug delivery; microphones narrower than a hair for hearing aids and other applications; tiny pressure, temperature and humidity sensors for better weather monitoring; new ways to manage heat and generate electrical power; and wearable flexible electronics for continuous health monitoring.

In addition to significantly expanding research capabilities, the tool will provide research opportunities in microfabrication and nanoengineering that will help train the high-tech workforce of the state of Hawaiʻi, including through hands-on student research projects and enhanced outreach activities.

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