Surface measurement unlocks nanomachine potential

A Warwick University scientist has conceived a new method to improve the measurement of the surfaces of components required for use in high-precision and nanotechnology applications.

With the requirement for higher performance of smaller parts, more emphasis is placed on their surfaces to produce high-value products.

According to Warwick University, two emerging consequences are the use of patterns and structures on the surfaces, and complex forms, both of which have to be controlled in order to optimise areas such as lubrication, adhesion and optical performance.

Key to these improvements is the measurement of these surfaces in order to manufacture to high precision with a minimum of defects, which is problematic for traditional measuring techniques.

A new idea conceived by Prof David Whitehouse of the School of Engineering at Warwick University reportedly promises to be a first step towards addressing these new measurement problems.

He has devised a technique based on Gaussian filtering, but which has a new mathematical stratagem which is described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The technique is similar to image analysis except that it takes into account geometry rather than just intensity variations.

In a statement he said, ‘This technique enhances the sharp features which are inherently present on high tech structured surfaces such as edges, grooves and boundaries in a way which enables their detailed geometry and position to be better determined than previous methods.’

It is claimed the technique can also facilitate the detection and characterisation of defects on the surfaces.

Structured and free form surface applications over a wide range of sizes, for example in the optical, semiconductor, turbine and in nanotechnology could, if the method realises its potential, benefit directly.

The paper, Theoretical enhancement of the Gaussian filtering of engineering surfaces, can be found here.