The Basics of MEMS Technology

MEMS stands for micro-electro-mechanical systems and in its most simple form may be defined as miniaturized and electro mechanical systems that are created from using method of microfabrication.  The dimensions of MEMS devices range from well below one micron on the lower end of the dimensional spectrum, all the way to several millimeters.  Moreover,  MEMS devices range from simple structures with no moving elements to highly sophisticated electromechanical systems that feature multiple moving elements under the supervision of integrated microelectronics.

Functional Elements

According to PARCAM with EXT software specialists, the functional elements of MEMS are the microstructures, sensors, actuators and lastly microelectronics, the most important perhaps to mention are the microsensors and microactuators. These are defined as devices that convert energy from one form to the next. For instance, microsensors convert a measured mechanical signal into an electrical one.

During the several decades of MEMS research there has been an extensive number of microsensors for virtually every possible modality including temperature, pressure, inertial forces etc.  Micromachined sensors have a knack of exceeding their macroscale counterparts. For instance, a Micromachined version of a pressure transducer can outperform a pressure sensor. Not only does performance better their counterparts but also the batch fabrication methods developed translate into low production cost per device.

There are also a number of exceptionally performing microactuators in the market today such as microvalves used for the control of gas and liquid flows, micropumps to establish positive fluid pressures and controlled micromirror arrays for displays. Even though these devices are so tiny they do have an effect on a macroscale level for instance, small microactuators have been installed on the leading edge of airfoils of planes and have been able to steer said aircraft using only these microminiaturized devices.

The potential of MEMS technology can be appreciated if all the miniaturized sensors, actuators and structures have been combined into a single common silicon substrate along with an integrated circuit. It would really be cool to witness the micromachining process that will selectively etch away parts of the silicon wafer or form new structural layers to create electromechanical and mechanical devices.