Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Uses Laser Vibrometer for Increased Precision in Measurement

Photo by Jeff Shaw

Mechanical Engineering graduate student Ryan Link makes playful use of a laser pointer to illustrate the laser vibrometer research he is involved with under the tutelage of mechanical engineering professor David Zimmerman. The laser vibrometer, which the mechanical engineering department acquired in July 2003, is used to measure the vibrations in solid objects in a non-contacting manner, therefore avoiding the use of sensors or accelerometers that alter the object.

“It allows you to scan multiple points on the same object,” Link said. “So you can scan 100 points remotely whereas if you were doing it the traditional way you’d have to have 100 sensors. Plus when you measure anything you always change it somehow. Using only a light beam, you change that object almost undetectably as opposed to putting sensors on it where you change the mass and localized stiffness.”

Link is currently using the vibrometer for vibration testing on a micro mirror that is roughly three millimeters wide. The mirror, though a quite miniscule piece of equipment, is used in telecommunications.

“Companies who work in telecommunications use Micro Electro Mechanical Machines (MEMMs) for switching fiber optic communication lines,” Zimmerman said. “Most of the advanced communication networks are done over fiber optics, and to be able to use fiber optics, sometimes you have to be able to switch from one fiber optic to the next via the micro mirrors. The light would bounce off of the mirror and go to another location.”

Name: Ryan Link
Major: Mechanical Engineering
How did you get involved with this research project?
A major reason that Dr. Zimmerman wanted me to do something with these MEMMs is because it involves both electrical and mechanical systems. I wanted to do research in a field that allowed me to take advantage of both my electrical engineering background and my mechanical curriculum as of now. MEMMs have a wide application in terms of space exploration, medical advances in terms of non-invasive exploration techniques of the body, and military guidance systems.
What are your plans after your graduate work?
I’ll probably continue on and get my Ph.D. I really enjoy graduate school a lot more than undergraduate because there is a lot more freedom in terms of setting your own schedule. You do your research when you want as long as you get it done. There is also more of an opportunity to go further than your course work and delve into the field.


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