How Nanopositioners And Sensors Operate

When trying to implement nanopositioners into your workflow, you must understand how this technology works so you know if it is the right option for your company. You will also benefit from knowing which nanopositioning options are available to you. 


A nanopositioning is a mechanical stage that involves a component that moves inside a rigid frame. There are both movable and static portions, which are all electro-discharge machined with uniform blocks and are connected to hinges. Electro-discharge machining involves using electrical discharges to form objects into desired shapes. Current discharges gradually remove material from an object.

The portion of the nanopositioner that is movable can move in one of several translational axes. They may also move along angular axes such as tilt or rotation. Flexure mounting ensures that a motion that is carried out in one direction does not occur in another direction.

Closed-Loop Systems

With a closed-loop system, it's possible to provide an input to the positioner and check the positioner parameters. Closed loop systems automatically regulate process variables to a particular setpoint without the need for human input.  

Actuators and Parasitic Motion

For nanopositioners to be possible, piezo actuators are needed to convert electrical energy into linear motion at a high speed and force to provide almost unlimited resolution. In addition to these actuators being used for nanopositioners, they are used in almost every high-tech field. The actuators also allow for high resonance frequencies and lower parasitic motion. Parasitic motion can negatively impact the application of the nanopositioner and can be very complex depending on the limb arrangement. 

Sensors Available to Nanopositioners

There are many sensor options available for nanopositioners. These include:

  • Flexure located strain gauges
  • Capacitance
  • Piezo located strain gauges

The flexure located strain gauge is used to determine how various objects react to being placed under certain amounts of strain. Some strain is positive due to elongation, while other forms of strain are negative as a result of compression. 

Capacitance Sensing

Capacitance sensing has the ability to detect anything that is conductive or has a dielectric that is different from the air. These sensors can detect anything from distance to humidity and can be very useful for nanopositioners. 

Piezoelectric Sensors

A piezo located strain gauge relies on the piezoelectric effect to measure changes in variables, such as strain, temperature, and acceleration. Once you understand how you will use your nanopositioners, it'll be clear which sensors you'll need.