microfluidic bubble test system What is MEMS?

Definition

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) is the integration of a number of microcomponents on a single chip which allows the microsystem to both sense and control the environment. The components typically include microelectronic integrated circuits (the “brains”), sensors (the “senses” and “nervous system”), and actuators (the “hands” and “arms”).

Fabrication

The components are typically integrated on a single chip using microfabrication technologies. The electronics, mechanical and electromechanical components are fabricated using technologies borrowed heavily, but not exclusively, from integrated circuit fabrication technology. There are three principal steps:
Deposition processes - thin films of material are placed on a substrate
Lithography - a patterned mask is applied on top of the films
Etching processes - the films are etched selectively to provide relief following the mask outlines

MEMS Applications

As described at MEMSNet “MEMS promises to revolutionize nearly every product category by bringing together silicon-based microelectronics with micromachining technology, making possible the realization of complete systems-on-a-chip. MEMS is an enabling technology allowing the development of smart products, augmenting the computational ability of microelectronics with the perception and control capabilities of microsensors and microactuators and expanding the space of possible designs and applications.”

MEMS applications are growing fast. They are currently used in:

Washing machines – vibration sensors for load imbalance
Cars – accelerometers (air bags), roll sensors, ABS
Vacuums – dirt sensors
Microwave ovens – strain gages for food weight
Home theater, cell phones, ear thermometers, stud finders, inkjet printers, game pads for video games, disk drives, robotics, projection displays, and more

SmallTech will help improve and extend your MEMS devices and systems - and help evaluate whether new MEMS application areas make sense for your company.

Some Useful Links

MEMSNet - MEMS and Nanotechnology Clearinghouse
BSAC - Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center
Trimmer – a large listing by Bill Trimmer of MEMS-related links
MEMSWorld - literature compendium from Case Western
TinyTech - jobs and information resource in MEMS and Nanotech
SmallTimes - online magazine specializing in MEMS and Nanotech