February 2012 Meeting Summary

Andrei Shkel spoke to the Southern California Section on Monday, February 27, 2012 at John Deere. Dr Shkel’s talk is Precision Navigation and Timing Enabled by Microtechnology: Are We There Yet? There were 20 in attendance. A brief bio and abstract of the talk follows. His presentation is attached.

Abstract of Dr. Shkel’s talk: (Presentation Slides)
Are we there yet? After about two decades of harmonic investment in developments, this is a question impatiently raised over-and-over by potential users of “small technology” for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) applications. It is clear that some significant advances have been made over the years, and we see a footprint of the technology in an ever-growing consumer electronic market full of interactive products enabled by inertial and timing micro-technologies. These products include accelerometers for gaming applications, gyros for auto safety, and resonators for clocks – just to name a few. The question remains, however: Is the technology really on the level of what we consider to be precision navigation and timing? In reality, “small technology” remains several orders of magnitude short with respect to long-term stability, dynamic range, and accuracy. Why? We don’t yet have a complete answer, and we are still working hard to disprove the statement that “high-performance inertial micro-instrument is a contradiction in terms.” It is indisputable that we can make things small, but we cannot make them sufficiently precise and uniform. We know we can deposit materials layer-by-layer, but we cannot make micro-devices truly 3-D, as is readily accomplished using conventional machining. We consistently have an excellent case for low-cost and bulk fabrication, but we cannot seriously challenge “boutique” processes when it comes to achieving precision, performance, and stability. We need new knowledge regarding the dimensional stability of materials. We need a better understanding of scaling, surface effects, and fabrication imperfections. PNT applications demand unusual new fabrication technologies and new materials with special properties. To achieve the required phenomenal accuracy, we need a new wave of innovation in design and refinement of many emerging electromechanical transducers. A new wave of innovation in PNT will likely rely on yet-to-be-utilized physics, highly specialized fabrication technologies and batch assembly techniques, selective wafer-level trimming and polishing, a combination of passive and active calibration techniques strategically implemented right on-chip, and introduction of innovative test technologies. This presentation will discuss the growing interest within the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the development of a miniature, self-sufficient navigation system that might be realized through deep integration of timing, inertial navigation units, and other non-inertial sensors. A new wave of innovation is underway focused on bringing to life revolutionary ideas and fabrication technologies on micro/nano/pico/femto/atto scales, packaging, ultra-low-power electronics, innovative algorithms, never-before-explored architectures, and exploitation of new integration paradigms.

Capsule Biography of Stephen Fossi:
Dr. Shkel serves as a program manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) at DARPA. His professional interests, reflected in more than 150 publications and two books, include solid-state sensors and actuators, MEMS-based neuroprosthetics, sensor-based intelligence, and control theory.

He is on leave from his faculty position as a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, where he is also the Director of the UCI Microsystems Laboratory.

Dr. Shkel is an Editor of the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. He served as a guest editor for two special issues of the IEEE Sensors Journal, the 2008-2009 Vice President of the IEEE Sensors Council, and the General Chair of the 2005 IEEE Sensors Conference.

He is the holder of 16 U.S. and international patents (with 13 pending) on micromachined angle-measuring gyroscopes, wide-bandwidth rate gyroscopes, design and fabrication of light manipulators and tunable optical filters and hybrid micromachining processes.

Dr. Shkel is the recipient of the 2009 Technical Achievement Award of the IEEE Sensors Council, 2005 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the 2002 George E. Brown, Jr., Award, and the 2006 Fariborz Maseeh Outstanding Faculty Research Award.

Dr. Andrei M. Shkel received the Diploma degree (with excellence) in Applied Mechanics and Control from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, in 1991, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1997. He completed his postdoctoral study in 1999 at Berkeley Sensors and Actuators Center, University of California, Berkeley.