UC Irvine’s MicroSystems Laboratory Featured in IEEE Spectrum Magazine

Dr. Alexander Trusov’s presentation at MEMS 2011 sparks interest

The Henry Samueli School of Engineering’s MicroSystems Laboratory was recently featured in the science magazine IEEE Spectrum following a presentation made by Alexander Trusov, Ph.D., a project scientist in the laboratory, at the 24th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS 2011) in Cancun, Mexico.

Trusov’s presentation featured a new type of microscopic gyroscope called a Foucault pendulum on a chip. The device is a MEMS gyroscope made of silicon that is capable of directly measuring angles of motion faster and more accurately than current MEMS-based gyroscopes. MicroSystems Lab director and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Andrei M. Shkel, Ph.D., explained that this approach may lead to more accurate gyroscopes due because it measures angles directly and removes the step of the device having to make the numerical integration of the noisy angular rate signal.

The MEMS gyroscope uses the same principle as a Foucault pendulum, a device at many museums that demonstrates the spin of the Earth. The MicroSystems Lab’s gyroscope has four small masses of silicon a few hundred micrometers wide that are synchronized for anti-phase, dynamically balanced motion using a lever mechanism. A small electric voltage starts the masses vibrating in unison along a fixed line. As the gyroscope spins, the direction of the vibrational energy precesses the same way a swinging pendulum would, providing an instant measurement of the rotation angle.

Shkel is currently on leave from his UCI position and is working with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) leading a program to create angle-measuring gyroscopes for better inertial guidance systems. Shkel hopes the DARPA program will improve manufacturing processes in general, giving conventional microgyroscopes higher precision for applications that do not require the bandwidth and dynamic range of a chip-scale Foucault pendulum.

The IEEE MEMS conference paper was coauthored by I.P. Prikhodko, S.A. Zotov, A.A. Trusov, and A.M. Shkel.