Nanomanipulator Extensions

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Return to the Nanomanipulator Challenge.

This challenge can be used as an extension to a number of the other challenges found in NanoEnlightenment including the MFM Challenges and the Lithography Challenges.

This task can be split between hardware (by addition of another design module) and software components. It will tend, however, to be more heavily biased towards software, as it is fundamentally a problem of human-machine interface. We describe a few possible routes for the challenge. Different routes revolve around different software packages. We will try to highlight the both the pros and cons of each possible package.



Students Design Only Nanomanipulator

Instructors can preassemble one of the bases, such as the lithograph device or the MFM, and provide it to the students. The students will then only be responsible for creating the control interface. Depending on the base constructed the students could be challenged to draw a basic shape with their tool, or to determine a magnet configuration in an MFM sample. Depending on the software system selected, instructors may also need to provide a software interface to the base (see NXT-G below).

Students Design Both Nanomanipulator and Base

The Nanomanipulator module can be added to any of the base construction modules to increase the span of time needed to complete the challenge, the range of topics covered by it, and difficulty of the project as a whole. The addition of this module to one of the others may warrant an increase in team size.

Software Enviroment

NXT-G Alone

The NXT-G language included with the NXT kits provides a few interface options for building the manipulator. NXT-G provides an interface to the buttons on the NXT brick itself, feedback from rotational sensors in the motors, as well as touch, light intensity, and distance sensors. The buttons and touch senors alone could be used to create a fairly simple human control system for any of the bases. For example, one button could control selection between two different axes while the other two could conditionally control the present direction of either one. If students are designing a base with three degrees of translational freedom the distance sensor would be a useful addition for feedback on vertical position. Information can be provided to the human operator through the LCD screen on the NXT unit: it is capable of basic text and numeric output and can also render predrawn pictures.

NXT-G and Bluetooth

The NXT units also provide a bluetooth interface. The interface allows communication between separate NXT units fairly easily. It can be used to interface with other bluetooth devices, but this is far more difficult and should be avoided for all but the most technical classes. InterNXT communication can be used to make one NXT into a controller for another. We have demoed this by the construction of a simple 2D joystick for the lithography base. If you with to implement such a challenge we would suggest providing the base as well as a motor driver NXT unit as a standard to all of the students and providing a software interface for it (such and interface can be found here). The other option would be to provide two NXT units to each student/group.


LabVIEW can provide a challenge which is more concerned with the human interface and feedback aspects of the task then NXT-G is capable of. LabVIEW extensions for the NXT unit can be found at: LabVIEW NXT Kit. LabVIEW provides modules for both direct, realtime control of the NXT, as well as a compiler similar to the one found in NXT-G. Using the real time control interface, students can make use of LabVIEW's built in modules for keyboard, mouse, and joystick control. LabVIEW can also be used to generate complex graphs and images from feedback data obtained by the NXT during execution of the program. As an example of exactly how to implement such things we have also provided the source code for the example program shown on the front page

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