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Making MEMS: A short guide

October 07, 2008 | | 210800270
Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) are three-dimensional structures made using silicon micromachining technologies. They made their first appearance in semiconductor fabs in the sixties and, among many applications, they can be used to sense acceleration, angular rate, pressure, and sound pressure.
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Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) are three-dimensional structures made using silicon micromachining technologies. They made their first appearance in semiconductor fabs in the sixties and, among many applications, they can be used to sense acceleration, angular rate, pressure, and sound pressure.

Our daily life is full of micromachined physical sensors. In the car, all active and passive safety systems, like the vehicle dynamic control and air bags use acceleration and yaw rate sensors. Also, pressure sensors in engine manifolds and fuel lines can be used to keep petrol consumption to a minimum.

However, mems are experiencing a 'consumerisation wave'. Portable pcs now use a 3-axis accelerometer to protect data stored on the hard disk drive in case of an accidental fall. Meawhile, a number of mobile phones exploit the sensing ability of tiny accelerometers to simplify the interface between people and their equipment. Last but not least, gaming devices such as the Nintendo Wii or Sony PS3 enable us to really appreciate the experience thanks to the remote controller motion-sensing feature.

The penetration of motion sensors, like accelerometers and gyroscopes, will continue to increase in the automotive market, driven partly by regulations, but their penetration in the consumer market will happen at a higher rate. For example, aside from vehicle dynamic control systems, yaw rate sensors are being used to improve image stabilisation in camcorders and digital still cameras. Moreover, motion sensors and geo-magnetometers are expected to cluster together in Motion Measurement Units to enable personal navigation in portable devices, thus fostering the deployment of location-based services by telecommunication operators.

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