Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Magnetic Levitation Experiment

In 2007 I completed my Masters at the University of Toronto. My research was focused on an experiment that was designed and constructed in collaboration with Quanser: a multiple degree-of-freedom (DOF) magnetic levitation platform. The research was initiated by Prof. Manfredi Maggiore (Systems Control Group, University of Toronto) and Dr. Jacob Apkarian (Quanser founder). The goal of the project is to develop a high-precision positioning system using contactless magnetic levitation. Such a system would have application in sensitive, high-precision research and manufacturing such as semiconductor manufacturing. The main advantage of the system is that it uses magnetic forces to levitate the platform, thus avoiding mechanical contact between moving parts, which can eventually lead to costly repairs or dust particles as the parts wear.

In my research, I was able to control the platform along five DOF: horizontal and vertical motion plus two rotations (pitch and roll). The precision of the maglev system is on the order of micrometers, or the width of a human hair. The video below shows a variety of experiments including stabilization of pitch and roll rotations, sinusoidal tracking, and disturbance rejection (robustness). Ultimately, we would like to improve on the existing design and achieve precision on the order of nanometers so that the system would be viable for use in semiconductor manufacturing and other high-precision applications.

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