Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Committee Chair

Harnett, Cindy K.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Naber, John

Committee Member

Naber, John

Committee Member

McNamara, Shamus

Committee Member

Williams, Stuart

Committee Member

Bradshaw, Roger


Microelectromechanical systems; Nanoparticles


Development of microscale actuating technologies has considerably added to the toolset for interacting with natural components at the cellular level. Small-scale actuators and switches have potential in areas such as microscale pumping and particle manipulation. Thermal actuation has been used with asymmetric geometry to create large deflections with high force relative to electrostatically driven systems. However, many thermally based techniques require a physical connection for power and operate outside the temperature range conducive for biological studies and medical applications. The work presented here describes the design of an out-of-plane bistable switch that responds to near-infrared light with wavelength-specific response. In contrast to thermal actuating principles that require wired conductive components for Joule heating, the devices shown here are wirelessly powered by near -infrared (IR) light by patterning a wavelength-specific absorbent gold nanoparticle (GNP) film onto the microstructure. An optical window exists which allows near-IR wavelength light to permeate living tissue, and high stress mismatch in the bilayer geometry allows for large actuation at biologically acceptable limits. Patterning the GNP film will allow thermal gradients to be created from a single laser source, and integration of various target wavelengths will allow for microelectromechanical (MEMS) devices with multiple operating modes. An optically induced temperature gradient using wavelength-selective printable or spinnable coatings would provide a versatile method of wireless and non-invasive thermal actuation. This project aims to provide a fundamental understanding of the particle and surface interaction for bioengineering applications based on a “hybrid” of infrared resonant gold nanoparticles and MEMS structures. This hybrid technology has potential applications in light-actuated switches and other mechanical structures. Deposition methods and surface chemistry are integrated with three-dimensional MEMS structures in this work. The long-term goal of this project is a system of light-powered microactuators for exploring cells' response to mechanical stimuli, adding to the fundamental understanding of tissue response to everyday mechanical stresses at the molecular level.