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. It gives a brief overview of the technology and some of the methods used to create microstructures. The guide is not intended as a comprehensive, all inclusive, description which is pointless anyway as the technology continues to develop. It is merely a short introduction to the basic fundamentals of the technology. If you are experienced in MEMS, you may not find much new information here. You may also want to refer to our MEMS glossary. MEMS technology is based on a number of tools and methodologies, which are used to form small structures with dimensions in the micrometer scale (one millionth of a meter). Significant parts of the technology has been adopted from integrated circuit (IC) technology. For instance, almost all devices are build on wafers of silicon, like ICs. The structures are realized in thin films of materials, like ICs. They are patterned using photolithographic methods, like ICs. There are however several processes that are not derived from IC technology, and as the technology continues to grow the gap with IC technology also grows. There are three basic building blocks in MEMS technology, which are the ability to deposit thin films of material on a substrate, to apply a patterned mask on top of the films by photolithograpic imaging, and to etch the films selectively to the mask. A MEMS process is usually a structured sequence of these operations to form actual devices. Please follow the links to read more about deposition, lithography and etching. Current Challenges MEMS and Nanotechnology is currently used in low- or medium-volume applications. Some of the obstacles preventing its wider adoption are: Limited Options Most companies who wish to explore the potential of MEMS and Nanotechnology have very limited options for prototyping or manufacturing devices, and have no capability or expertise in microfabrication technology. Few companies will build their own fabrication facilities because of the high cost. A mechanism giving smaller organizations responsive and affordable access to MEMS and Nano fabrication is essential. Packaging
The packaging of MEMS devices and systems needs to improve considerably from its current primitive state. MEMS packaging is more challenging than IC packaging due to the diversity of MEMS devices and the requirement that many of these devices be in contact with their environment. Currently almost all MEMS and Nano development efforts must develop a new and specialized package for each new device. Most companies find that packaging is the single most expensive and time consuming task in their overall product development program. As for the components themselves, numerical modeling and simulation tools for MEMS packaging are virtually non-existent. Approaches which allow designers to select from a catalog of existing standardized packages for a new MEMS device without compromising performance would be beneficial. Fabrication Knowledge Required Currently the designer of a MEMS device requires a high level of fabrication knowledge in order to create a successful design. Often the development of even the most mundane MEMS device requires a dedicated research effort to find a suitable process sequence for fabricating it. MEMS device design needs to be separated from the complexities of the process sequence.
How the MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange Can Help
The MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange provides services that can help with some of these problems.
We make a diverse catalog of processing capabilities available to our users, so our users can experiment with different fabrication technologies. We also have a number of novel processes that are difficult to obtain from other fabrication services. Our users don't have to build their own fabrication facilities, and Our web-based interface lets users assemble process sequences and submit them for review by the MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange's engineers and fabrication sites.
For More Information This is only a very brief overview of the MEMS and Nanotechnology field. MEMS and Nanotechnology are still the subject of broad and diverse research efforts, and the field is constantly changing. We suggest the MEMS and Nanotechnology Clearinghouse (MEMSnet) as a good starting point for further exploration. MEMSnet (www.memsnet.org) is an information service for the MEMS and Nanotechnology development communities, maintained by the MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange. MEMSnet posts MEMS-related news announcements, job and resume listings, provides a calendar of MEMS conferences and events, and maintains a list of relevant web sites.
We also have a MEMS and Nanotechnology reading list containing a number of books that will teach you more about MEMS and Nanotechnology. Discussion Groups MEMS-talk [subscribe] The mems-talk mailing list is for the exchange of MEMS related information, views, and general discussion. It is also intended to build a freely accessible body of MEMS knowledge via the mems-talk archive. The list is sponsored by the MEMS Exchange as a service to the MEMS community, and is a continuation of the MEMS mailing list originally hosted by ISI. The list is moderated. Inquiries about finding and comparing vendors of MEMS-related equipment, supplies and services are better directed to the mems-business mailing list. Before asking the list a question, be sure to check the mems-talk archive and try searching on Google. The archives can also be searched from MEMSnet.org's search page. MEMS-business [subscribe] The MEMS-Business mailing list is for discussion relating to the business side of MEMS technology. Possible topics might include: Finding and comparing vendors of MEMS-related equipment, supplies and services. • Discussions from mems-talk that devolve into recommendations for commercial MEMS entities. • Notices of used equipment or surplus supplies being privately sold by an individual or institution. • General discussion of MEMS companies or the MEMS marketplace.
Before asking the list a question, be sure to check the MEMSnet vendor list and try searching on Google. The list archives can also be searched from MEMSnet.org's search page. MEMS-announce [subscribe] The mems-announce list is a service provided by MEMSnet.org and hosted by the MEMS Exchange. It is a low-volume, moderated announcement list. Job opportunities and event listings posted on www.memsnet.org will also be sent to MEMS-announce. Announcements or press releases that don't qualify as news,
job or event postings on memsnet.org can and should be sent directly to MEMSannounce. To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the mems-announce archives What is MEMS Technology? Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) is the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common silicon substrate through microfabrication technology. While the electronics are fabricated using integrated circuit (IC) process sequences (e.g., CMOS, Bipolar, or BICMOS processes), the micromechanical components are fabricated using compatible "micromachining" processes that selectively etch away parts of the silicon wafer or add new structural layers to form the mechanical and electromechanical devices.
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. Microelectronic integrated circuits can be thought of as the "brains" of a system and MEMS augments this decision-making capability with "eyes" and "arms", to allow microsystems to sense and control the environment. Sensors gather information from the environment through measuring mechanical, thermal, biological, chemical, optical, and magnetic phenomena. The electronics then process the information derived from the sensors and through some decision making capability direct the actuators to respond by
moving, positioning, regulating, pumping, and filtering, thereby controlling the environment for some desired outcome or purpose. Because MEMS devices are manufactured using batch fabrication techniques similar to those used for integrated circuits, unprecedented levels of functionality, reliability, and sophistication can be placed on a small silicon chip at a relatively low cost.
TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS) In this SBIR program, Nanohmics is developing an ultrahigh efficiency MicroElectroMechanical System (MEMS) cryogenic cooling system. The cryocooler is based on a Stirling Engine that is operating in reverse mode (mechanical-to-thermal) transduction. These devices show particular promise as MEMS coolers for integrated circuits and other planar detection arrays. This program improves on past work to develop a MEMS-based Stirling cryocooler that will dramatically improve the cryocooler performance and simplify device construction. The improvements to be included in this program are replacing the silicon heat exchanger plates and flexible membranes with high thermal conductivity diamond and monolithically constructing the gas impervious walls and regenerator portion of the device using quartz (SiO2). In Phase I of this program, Nanohmics examined the effects of introducing these materials into Stirling cryocoolers in the MEMS setting. This included thermal modeling of the proposed structure and examination of the operating parameters to produce optimum performance. Nanohmics also developed the process steps necessary to fabricate the device. In Phase II Nanohmics proposes to fabricate and test a prototype device based on the Phase I design. POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATION(S) (LIMIT 150 WORDS) To fulfill NASA?s Earth Science Enterprise mission objectives, Nanohmics plans to develop an ultrahigh thermal efficiency MicroElectroMechanical System (MEMS) cryogenic cooling system. The system will be designed to decrease the cost and size of cooling devices for instruments that perform Earth Science measurements and thus lead to compact electromagnetic detection and microelectronics platforms for integration into miniature probe spacecraft. Additional NASA applications include dependable long term cooling for detectors on deep space satellite missions. The proposed MEMS cooler will be highly reliable, light weight, have low vibration, and energy efficient. POTENTIAL NON-NASA APPLICATION(S) (LIMIT 150 WORDS) Miniaturized coolers have many military and commercial applications. The largest commercial application is cooling of microprocessors and detectors. Currently, speed of microprocessors and the efficiency of detectors are limited by the amount of power that can be removed from the devices. Chip scale heat pumps will allow efficient cooling of
devices enabling operation at greater speeds / power densities. A number of examples exist where a MEMS-based cryocooler integrated into compact environments would be useful. These include: IR and other electromagnetic radiation detector cooling and cooling of packaged microelectronic chips.
MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) Technology
In less than 20 years, MEMS (micro electro-mechanical systems) technology has gone from an interesting academic exercise to an integral part of many common products. But as with most new technologies, the practical implementation of MEMS technology has taken a while to happen. The design challenges involved in designing a successful MEMS product (the ADXL2O2E) are described in this article by Harvey Weinberg from Analog Devices. In early MEMS systems a multi-chip approach with the sensing element (MEMS structure) on one chip, and the signal conditioning electronics on another chip was used. While this approach is simpler from a process standpoint, it has many disadvantages:
* The overall silicon area is generally larger. * Multi chip modules require additional assembly steps.
* Yield is generally lower for multi chip modules. * Larger signals from the sensor are required to overcome the stray capacitance of the chip to chip interconnections, and stray fields necessitating a larger sensor structure. * Larger packages are generally required to house the two-chip structure. Of course, history teaches us that integration is the most cost effective and high performance solution. So Analog Devices pursued an integrated approach to MEMS where the sensor and signal conditioning electronics are on one chip.
The latest generation ADXL2O2E is the result of almost a decades worth of experience building integrated MEMS accelerometers. It is the world's smallest mass-produced, low g, low cost, integrated MEMS dual axis accelerometer.
The mechanical structure of the ADXL2O2E is shown in Figure 1 along with some key dimensions in Figure 2.
Polysilicon springs suspend the MEMS structure above the substrate such that the body of the sensor (also known as the proof mass) can move in the X and Y axes. Acceleration causes deflection of the proof mass from its centre position. Around the four sides of the square proof mass are 32 sets of radial fingers. These fingers are positioned between plates that are fixed to the substrate. Each finger and pair of fixed plates make up a differential capacitor, and the deflection of the proof mass is determined by measuring the differential capacitance.
This sensing method has the ability of sensing both dynamic acceleration (i.e. shock or vibration) and static acceleration (i.e. inclination or gravity). The differential capacitance is measured using synchronous modulation/demodulation techniques. After amplification, the X and Y axis acceleration signals each go through a 32KOhm resistor to an output pin (Cx and Cy) and a duty cycle modulator (the overall architecture can be seen in the block diagram in Figure 3). The user may limit the bandwidth, and thereby lower the noise floor, by adding a capacitor at the Cx and Cy pin. The output signals are voltage proportional to acceleration and pulse-width-modulation (PWM) proportional to acceleration. Using the PWM outputs, the user can interface the ADXL2O2 directly to the digital inputs of a microcontroller using a counter to decode the PWM.
Challenges in MEMS Design The mechanical design of microscopic mechanical systems, even simple systems, first requires an understanding of the mechanical behaviour of the various elements used. While the basic rules of mechanical dynamics are still followed in the miniaturised world, many of the materials used in these structures are not well mechanically characterised. For example, most MEMS systems use polysilicon to build mechanical structures. Polysilicon is a familiar material in the IC world, and is compatible with IC manufacturing processes.
Until recently, little work has been done to fully understand polysilicon's mechanical properties. In addition, many materials mechanical properties change in the microscopic world. Again, polysilicon is a good example. In the macro world it is rarely used as a mechanical element. It is too brittle and fragile to
withstand all but small mechanical deflections. But in the extremely small movements of MEMS structures (less than a few pm), it turns out to be an almost ideal material. The electronic design of MEMS sensors is very challenging. Most MEMS sensors (the ADXL2O2E included) mechanical systems are designed to realise a variable capacitor. Electronics are used to convert the variable capacitance to a variable voltage or current, amplify, linearise, and in some cases, temperature compensate the signal. This is a challenging task as the signals involved are very minute. In the case of the ADXL2O2E for example, the smallest resolvable signal is approximately 2OzF and this is on top of a common mode signal several orders of magnitude greater than that! Of course, for cost reasons the electronics must be made as compact as possible at the same time.
The integrated approach presented further challenges. Many standard production steps that improve the mechanical structure degrade the electronics and vice versa. For example, the usual method for flattening out the Polysilicon mechanical structure is annealing (where the structure is exposed to controlled high temperatures). While the annealing process is beneficial to the mechanical structure, it can degrade or destroy the BiMOS transistors used in the signal conditioning electronics. So compatible mechanical and electronic process methods had to be devised. Another roadblock for the MEMS designer has been the unavailability of standard design software. Modern integrated circuits are rarely designed by hand. Complex CAD and simulation software is used to help design and optimise the designers concepts. MEMS design software is still in its infancy, and most MEMS manufacturers develop part or all of their CAD and simulation software to suit their particular needs. The fabrication process design challenge is perhaps the greatest one. Techniques for building three-dimensional MEMS structures had to be devised. Chemical and trench etching can be used to "cut out" structures from solid polysilicon, but additional process steps must be used to remove the material underneath the patterned polysilicon to allow it to move freely.
Standard plastic injection molded IC packaging cannot be used because of the moving parts of the MEMS structure. A cavity of
some type must be maintained around the mobile MEMS structure. So alternative low-cost cavity packaging was developed. In addition, this package must also be mechanically stable as external mechanical stress could result in output changes. Even mundane tasks, such as cutting the wafer up into single die, becomes complicated. In a standard IC the particle residue created by the sawing process does not effect the IC. In a moving MEMS structure these particles can ruin a device. The Users Challenge MEMS sensors, like almost all electronic devices, do not exhibit ideal behaviour. While most designers have learned how to handle the non-ideal behaviour of op-amps and transistors, few have learned the design techniques used to compensate for non-ideal MEMS behaviour. In most cases, this type of information is not available in textbooks or courses, as the technology is quite new. So generally designers must get this type of information from the MEMS manufacturer. Analog Devices, for example, maintains a web site with design tools, reference designs, and dozens of application notes specific to its MEMS accelerometers to ease the users work.
Conclusion As with all new technologies both designers and users of MEMS devices have a learning curve to overcome. The effort is worthwhile, as the latest generation MEMS devices high performance and low cost have enabled innovative new products in dozens of markets
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