Ben Nickless

  • Research Engineer, National Institute of Aerospace

Member Morpheus Lab, 2005 – 2008 (Emeritus)

About Ben

Originally from Imperial, Missouri, Ben attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he received a BS in Mechanical Engineering in May of 2005. After spending the summer of 2005 as a summer intern at NASA-Johnson Space Center, he began attending the University of Maryland-College Park. He spent his first semester there as a teaching assistant in the Aerospace Engineering Department, after which he joined the Morpheus Lab in January of 2006. In addition to his work, Ben enjoys a variety of activities. He enjoys snowboarding and mountain biking, as well as motorsports such as motorcycle riding.

Graduate Research

Title: Dynamic Modeling and Position Control of a Piezoelectric Flextensional Actuator

Many applications mandate precise position control on the order of micrometer to nanometer resolution. Atomic force microscopy, micro-machining/precision grinding, and adaptive optics are a few such applications. Piezoelectric-based actuators typically possess the bandwidth and displacement resolution needed for such applications. However, they can rarely meet performance objectives without closed-loop control algorithms, and dynamic models of systems are the basis around which control algorithms are formed.

Piezoelectric flextensional actuators offer increased displacement over typical piezostack actuators, and increased block force over bimorph piezo actuators. By developing a dynamic model of a commercially available flextensional actuator, a control scheme can be designed to command its displacement trajectory. This will enable the actuator to meet the needs of the previously mentioned applications.