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Micro Electro Mechanical

Overview Of MEMS & Micro System
• Reference Books
1. Nadim Maluf, Kirt Williams : An
Introduction to Microelectromechanical
Systems Engineering, ARTECH HOUSE, INC.
685 Canton Street Norwood, MA 02062
3. Julian W. Gardner, Vijay K. Varadan, and
Osama O. Awadelkarim, “Microsensors MEMS
and Smart Devices,” John Wiley & Sons, 2001

- Any engineering system that performs
electrical and mechanical functions with
components in micrometers is a MEMS.
- They can be of the size of a rice grain or even
Ex :
1. Inertia sensors for air bag deployment
systems in automobiles
2. Microcars

• Courtesy of Denso Research Laboratories, Denso
Corporation, Aichi, Japan)

• Available MEMS products
1. Micro sensors - acoustic wave, biomedical,
chemical, inertia, optical, pressure, radiation,
thermal etc.
2. Micro actuators - valves, pumps and
microfluidics; electrical and optical relays and
switches; grippers, tweezers and tongs; linear
and rotary motors, etc.
Read/write heads in computer storage
Inkjet printer heads.

3. Micro device components - palm-top
reconnaissance aircrafts, mini robots and toys,
micro surgical and mobile telecom equipment,
• Microsystems = sensors + actuators + signal

• The Principal Driving Force for the 21st
Century Industrial Technology
• There has been increasing strong market
demand for: “Intelligent,” “Robust,” “Multi-
functional,” and “Low-cost” industrial
• Miniaturization is the only viable solution to
satisfy such market demand

Miniaturization Makes Engineering
• Small systems tend to move or stop more quickly
due to low mechanical inertia.
• It is thus ideal for precision movements and for
rapid actuation.
• Miniaturized systems encounter less thermal
distortion and mechanical vibration due to low
• Miniaturized devices are particularly suited for
biomedical and aerospace applications due to
their minute sizes and weight.
• Small systems have higher dimensional
stability at high temperature due to low
thermal expansion.
• Smaller size of the systems means less space
This allows the packaging of more functional
components in a single device.
• Less material requirements mean low cost of
production and transportation.
• Ready for mass production in batches.

MEMS as a Microsensor:
• Sense the existence and intensity of certain
physical, chemical or biological quantities –
temperature, pressure, sound, light, radiation,
magnetic flux, chemical composition etc.
• Advantage :
- sensitive and accurate with minimum
amount of sample.
- mass produced in batches.
• Broad classification :
Bio, Biomedical, Chemical, Optical, Thermal &
Pressure sensors
• Transduction unit converts the parameter
available from the microsensor to an electrical
voltage or current.

MEMS as a Microactuator- motor:
• The electrical signal applied is converted to

• Most popular actuation method involves the
electrostatic forces generated by charged
parallel conducting plates or electrodes.

Components of a Microsystem

• A microsystem is an Engineering system that
contains MEMS components that are designed
to perform specific Engineering functions.
• A typical airbag deployment system employs a
micro-inertia sensor built on the principle of a
• Two micro-accelerometers are used to
measure deceleration in horizontal and
vertical directions.
• They are mounted on a single chip (3 x 2 mm)
with signal transduction and processing unit.
Intelligent Microsystems -
Micromechatronics systems

Unique Features of MEMS and
• Components are in micrometers with complex
geometry using silicon, si- compounds and
Ex :
A micro gear-train by
Sandia National

• A simple capillary tubular network with cross-
sectional area of 20x30 μm Work on the principle of
driving capillary fluid flow by applying electric
voltages at the terminals at the reservoirs.
• Typical MEMS and Microsystem products
> Micro-gears
> Micro-Motors
> MICRO-turbines
> Micro-Optical components
• ICs have made possible for miniaturization of
many devices and engineering systems in the
last 50 years.

Microsystems & Microelectronics
• These two technologies share many common
fabrication technologies.
Microelectronics Microsystems (silicon
Primarily 2-dimensional
Complex 3-dimensional
Stationary structures May involve moving
Transmit electricity for
specific electrical functions
Perform specific biological,
Electro-mechanical and
optical functions
IC die is protected from
contacting media
Delicate components are
interfaced with working
Microelectronics Microsystems (silicon
Use single crystal silicon
dies, silicon compounds,
ceramics and plastic
Use single crystal silicon
dies and other materials -
GaAs, quartz, polymers,
ceramics and metals
Fewer components to be
Many more components to
be assembled
Mature IC design
Lack of Engineering design
methodology & standards
Complex patterns with
high density of electrical
circuitry over substrates
Simpler patterns over
substrates with simpler
electrical circuitry
Microelectronics Microsystems (silicon
Large number of
electrical feed-through
and leads
Fewer electrical feed-
through and leads
Industrial standards
No industrial standard to
follow in design, material
selections, fabrication
processes and packaging
Mass production Batch production, or on
customer-need basis
Fabrication techniques
are proven and well
Many microfabrication
techniques are used for
Microelectronics Microsystems (silicon
techniques are proven
and well documented
Distinct manufacturing
Packaging technology is
relatively well
Packaging technology is at
the infant stage
Primarily involves
electrical and chemical
Involves all disciplines of
science and engineering

• Microsystems use more materials than
microelectronics – Silicon, Quartz, GaAs,
Polymers & Metallic materials.
Glass, Plastic and Metals are used for
• Microsystems perform a great variety of
• Microsystems involve moving parts –
Microvalves, pumps and gears.
Many have liquid flow through the system –
biosensors, analytic systems.
Micro-optical systems have light beam passing
through it.
• Microsystems are complex 3 dimensional
• The sensing elements and many core
elements are in contact with the working
media – technical problems in design and
• Manufacturing & Packaging technologies lack
The Multi-disciplinary Nature of
Microsystems Engineering

• Electrochemistry is widely used in electrolysis
to ionize substances in micromanufacturing
and chemical sensors.
• Electrohydrodynamics is used in driving
mechanisms in fluid flow in microchannels
and conduits.
• Molecular Biology is involved in the design
and manufacture of Biosensors and
biomedical equipment.
• Plasma physics is used in the production and
supply of ionized gases required for etching
and deposition in microfabrication.
• Scaling laws provide the rules for scaling down
of physical qualtities involved in the design of
• Quantum physics is used to modeling physical
behavior of materials and substances in
• Molecular physics provides models in the
description of the materials at microscale.
• Mechanical engineering principles are used in
the design of microsystem structure and
• Electrical engineering involves electrical
power supply, functional control and signal
processing circuit design.
• Chemical engineering involves processes with
chemical reactions in micromanufacturing.
• Materials engineering offers selection of
materials for the design and microfabrication.
• Industrial engineering relates to production
and assembly of microsystems.
Major commercial success:
• Pressure sensors and inertia sensors
(accelerometers) with worldwide market of:
- Airbag inertia sensors at 2 billion units per
- Manifold absolute pressure sensors at 40
million units per year.
- Disposable blood pressure sensors at 20
million units per year.

Emerging trends
• Pressure sensors BioMEMS
• Accelerometers IT MEMS for
• Other MEMS (OptoMEMS and RF MEMS)

Application in Automotive Industry
• More than 65 million vehicle will be produced
in a year.
• Areas of application are
- Safety
- Engine and power train
- Comfort and convenience
- Vehicle diagnostics and health monitoring
- Telematics like GPS, Route map etc.

(1) Manifold or Temperature manifold absolute
pressure sensor
(2) Exhaust gas differential pressure sensor
(3) Fuel rail pressure sensor
(4) Barometric absolute pressure sensor
(5) Combustion sensor
(6) Gasoline direct injection pressure sensor
(7) Fuel tank evaporative fuel pressure sensor
(8) Engine oil sensor
(9) Transmission sensor
(10) Tire pressure sensor

Application in Aerospace Industry
• Cockpit instrumentation.
• Sensors and actuators for safety - e.g. seat
• Wind tunnel instrumentation
• Sensors for fuel efficiency and safety
• Microsattellites
• Command and control systems with

• Inertial guidance systems with
microgyroscopes, accelerometers and fiber
optic gyroscope.
• Altitude determination and control systems
with micro sun and Earth sensors.
• Power systems with MEMtronic switches for
active solar cell array reconfiguration, and
electric generators
• Propulsion systems with micro pressure
sensors, chemical sensors for leak detection,
arrays of single-shot thrustors, continuous
microthrusters and pulsed microthrousters
• Thermal control systems with micro heat
pipes, radiators and thermal switches
• Communications and radar systems with very
high bandwidth, low-resistance radio-
frequency switches, micromirrors and optics
for laser communications, and micro variable
capacitors, inductors and oscillators.

Application in Biomedical Industry
• Disposable blood pressure transducers:
Lifetime 24 to 72 hours
• Catheter tip pressure sensors
• Sphygmomanometers
• Respirators
• Lung capacity meters
• Barometric correction instrumentation
• Medical process monitoring
• Kidney dialysis equipment
• Micro bio-analytic systems: bio-chips, capillary
electrophoresis, etc.

Application in Consumer Products
• Scuba diving watches and computers
• Bicycle computers
• Sensors for fitness gears
• Washers with water level controls
• Sport shoes with automatic cushioning control
• Digital tire pressure gages
• Vacuum cleaning with automatic adjustment
of brush beaters
• Smart toys
Application in Telecommunication
• Optical switching and fiber optic couplings
• RF relays and switches
• Tunable resonators

Micro Optical Switch - 2-Dimensional

Micro Optical Switch - 3-Dimensional

Working principle of Microsystems
• Microsensors or transducers are the most widely
used MEM devices at present.
• A sensor is a device which converts one form of
energy to another form.
• It provides the user with an energy output in
response to a specific measurable input.
• A smart sensor unit would include automatic
calibration, interference reduction, compensation
for parasitic effects, offset correction & self test.
Acoustic Wave sensors
• Used to measure chemical compositions in a
• They generate acoustic waves by converting
mechanical energy to electrical.
• Acoustic devices are also used to actuate fluid
flow in microfluidic systems.
• Activation energy is provided by two methods
– piezoelectric and magnetostrictive.
Biomedical sensors and Biosensors
• Biomedical industry will be a major player in
MEM devices.
• BioMEMS includes Biosensors, Bioinstruments
& surgery tools and Biotesting & analysis
• Design and manufacture of this type of sensor
and instrument require the knowledge and
experience in Molecular biology as well as
physical chemistry in addition to engineering.
• Major technical issues involved are
- Functionality for biomedical operations
- Adaptability to existing instruments and
- Compatibility with biological system of the
- Controllabilty, mobility and easy navigation
for operations such as laproscopic surgery.
- MEMS structures with high aspect ratio –
ratio of dimension in depth of the structure to
that of the surface.
• Two classes of sensors – Biomedical & Bio.
• Biomedical Sensors
• Biomedical instruments that are used to
measure biological substances as well as for
medical diagnostics.
• They typically require a minute amount of
sample and can perform analysis much faster.
• Electrochemical sensors - certain biological
substances like glucose in human blood, can
release certain elements by chemical reaction.
• These elements can alter the electricity flow
pattern in the sensor which can be detected.
• A small sample of blood is introduced to a
sensor with a polyvinyl alcohol solution.
• The sensor is made up of two electrodes – one
is a platinum film and the other is Ag/AgCl film
• A chemical reaction takes place between the
glucose in Blood and the oxygen in polyvinyl
Glucose + O
-> gluconolactone + H
• The H
produced is electrolyzed by applying
a –ve potential to the platinum electrode.
• This produces positive Hydrogen ions which
flow towards this electrode.
• The amount of glucose concentration is
proportional to the current flow between the
• Biosensors
• They work on the principle of the interaction
of the analytes that need to be detected with
biologically derived biomolecules such as
enzymes, antibodies & other form of protein.
• These biomolecules when attached to the
sensing elements can alter the output signal
when they interact with the analyte.
• Proper selection of biomolecules and sensing
element is essential for a specific analyte.
• Biotesting & analytical systems
• Operation of these systems involve the
passage of minute samples of the order of
nanoliters in capillary tubes or microchannels.
• They are pumped by electrohydrodynamic
means – electro-osmosis or electrophoresis.
• Electrohydrodynamics involves controlling the
flow of an ionized fluid by the application of
electrical field.
• Analysis is carried out by separating the
various species in the biological samples.
• Analytes include various biological substances
and human genomes.
• Different species have different electro-
osmotic mobility.
• Optical means are used to identify the species
after separation.
• These systems are built with microelectronic
circuits for signal transduction, conditioning
and processing.
• Hundreds of such capillary tubes can be
constructed on a single chip for parallel testing
• A simple system consist of two capillary tubes
or microchannels of diameter 30 μm.
• Shorter channel is connected to the sample
injection reservoir A and analyte waste
reservoir A’.
• The longer channel is connected to the buffer
solvent reservoir B & B’.
• The biological sample consists of species S
, S
with distinct electro-osmotic mobility.
• Application of an electric field between A & A’
initiates the flow of injected sample from A to
A’ and the sample gets collected near the
intersection due to higher resistance to flow.
• A high voltage electric field is applied between
B & B’ which drives the sample with buffer
solvent to flow from B to B’.
• The species get separated because of their
inherent difference in electro-osmotic
Chemical sensors
• These are used to sense various chemical
compounds such as exahaust gas.
• Many materials are sensitive to chemical
attack – most metals are vulnerable to
• Significant oxide layer over the surface of the
metal can alter the its properties.
• The presence of Oxygen can be detected by
change in resistance of a metal.

• In a practical application, the detection of
Oxygen has to be much more rapid than wait
for oxidation to begin.
• Material’s sensitivity to specific chemicals is
used as the basic principle for many chemical
1. Chemiresistor sensors – Organic polymers
are used with embedded metal inserts.
These polymers can cause changes in
electrical conductivity of the metal when it is
exposed to certain gases.
Ex : A polymer pathalocyanine is used with
copper to sense ammonia (NH
) and Nitrogen
Oxide (NO
) gases.

2. Chemicapacitor sensors – Some polymers
can be used as the dielectric material in a
Exposure of these polymers to certain gases
can alter the dielectric constant of the
material which in turn changes the
capacitance between the metal electrodes .
Ex : Polyphenyl acetylene (PPA) is used to
sense CO, CO
, N
and CH
3. Chemimechanical sensors – Certain
polymers change shape when exposed to
chemicals including moisture.
Presence of the chemical is identified by
measuring variation in dimensions.
Ex : Moisture sensor using pyraline PI-2722.
4. Metal oxide gas sensors – This type of
sensor works on the principle similar to
chemiresistor sensors.
Several semiconducting metals, such as SnO2,
change their resistance after absorbing some
The reactivity between the measured gas and
the semiconducting metal can be insreased
either by heating or by metallic catalysts.
Catalysts are deposited on the surface of the
sensor and can speed us the reactions ,
increase the sensitivity of the sensor.
Optical sensors
• Devices that convert optical signal to
electronic output have been developed and
used many consumer electronic products.
• Micro-optical sensors have been developed to
sense the intensity of light.
• Solid state materials that provide strong
electron – photon interactions are used as the
sensing materials.
• Four main types of sensors – Photovoltaic,
Photoconductive, Photodiode and
• Photovoltaic junction can produce an electric
potential when the transparent substrate of
semiconductor is exposed to incident photon
• Photoconductors change their electrical
resistance when exposed to light waves.
• Photodiode and Phototransistor starts
conducting with incident photons on the
junction or base.
• They have extremely short response time in
generating the electrical signals.
• Selection materials for optical sensors is based
on quantum efficiency – materials ability to
generate electron-hole pairs from input
• Semiconducting materials like Si and GaAs are
common photoconducting materials – GaAs
has higher quantum efficiency but expensive.
• Alkali metals like Lithium (Li), Sodium (Na),
Potassium (K), Rubidium (Rb) and Cesium (Cs)
are also used for optical sensors – last one is
more commonly used.
Pressure sensors
• Most of these sensors work on the principle of
mechanical deformation and stress on the
diaphragm induced by the measured pressure.
• This distortion and stress is then converted to
electrical signal through transducers.
• Two types – Absolute and Gage.
• Absolute sensors have an evacuated cavity on
one side of the diaphragm – the measured
pressure is the absolute value with vacuum as
the reference.
• In the gage type no evacuation is necessary.
• Two ways to apply pressure to the diaphragm.
With back side pressurization, there is no
interference with signal transducer which is
normally mounted on the top surface of the
The other method, front side pressurization is
used under special circumstances due to the
interference of the pressure medium with the
signal transducer.
• The sensing element is normally made up of
thin silicon die varying in size from a few
micrometers to few millimeters square.

• A cavity is created on one side of the die by
microfabrication which creates a diaphragm
that deforms under pressure.
• The thickness of the silicon diaphragm is in
• A constraint base made up of metal or ceramic
(Pyrex glass) supports the silicon die.
• The entire assembly is then packaged into a
robust casing made of metal, ceramic or
plastic with proper passivation of the die.

• 4 piezoresistors are implanted on the surface
of the silicon diaphragm forming a
Wheatstone bridge circuit.
• The resistors R
& R
experience elongation
while R
and R
get compressed when
pressure is applied.
• This causes increase in resistance of R
& R

while decrease in resistance of R
and R
• This converts the stress on the diaphragm to
change in electrical resistance and in turn to
• These changes are reflected in the dynamic
deflection mode operation of the Wheatstone
bridge as (1)


3 2
4 1
in o
where V
and V
are the measured and
supplied voltage to Wheatstone bridge.
• Thin wire bonds are used to transmit the
voltage change through two metal pads.
• Micropressure sensors with piezoresistors
have high gain and exhibit a good linear
characteristics – in plane stress to change in
• The main drawback is that it is temperature
• Another method of transduction is
capacitance variation on applied pressure.
• Two electrodes of thin metal film are placed at
the bottom of top cover and on the surface of
the diaphragm.
• Any deformation of the diaphragm due to
applied pressure will decrease the space
between the electrodes and hence vary the
• This method is independent of temperature.
• The capacitance of the parallel plate capacitor
is given by (2)
o r
c c =
where ε
is the relative permittivity of
dielectric medium, ε
is the permittivity of
free space (vacuum) = 8.85 pF/m
• Capacitors are common transducers as well as
actuators in microsystems.
• Capacitance variation can be measured by
bridge circuits similar to Wheatstone bridge.
• The variable capacitance can be measured by
measuring the output voltage V

where ∆C is the capacitance change and C is
the capacitance of other capacitors in the
• Sensitivity of the capacitance micropressure
sensors are low compared to piezoresistors.
• They are also nonlinear.

( )
in o
A +
2 2
• Ex : a) Determine the capacitance of a parallel
plate capacitor with a plate dimension of
L=W=1000 μm with an air gap of 2 μm.
b) Determine the voltage output of the
capacitance bridge with above capacitor used
as the variable capacitor when the air gap is
reduced in steps of 0.25 μm.

a) 4.425 pF

b) Airgap μm cap pF ∆C pF V

2.00 4.425 0 0
1.75 5.063 0.633 0.033
1.50 5.910 1.477 0.071
1.25 7.080 2.650 0.115
1.00 8.860 4.430 0.167
0.75 11.813 7.383 0.227
0.50 17.720 13.290 0.300
• A manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor for
an Automobile is shown.
• It uses a capacitor as signal transducer.

• Third method is to use a vibrating beam for
pressure measurement.
• A thin n-type silicon beam is placed across a
shallow cavity on a silicon die.
• A p-type electrode is diffused at the surface of
the cavity under the beam.
• The beam is made to vibrate at its resonant
frequency by applying an ac signal to the
diffused electrode.
• When external pressure is applied to the
diaphragm, the stress is transferred to beam.
• This induced stress along the beam causes a
shift of the resonant frequency of the beam
which is a measure of the pressure applied.
• This kind of signal transduction is immune to
temperature and has linear characteristics but
are expensive to fabricate.

Thermal Sensors
• Thermocouples are the most common
transducer used to sense heat.
• An electromotive force is produced at the
open ends of two dissimilar metallic wire
junction exposed to heat.
• This emf can be correlated to the temperature
at the junction.
• These wires and the junction can be very small
in size.

• By introducing an additional junction in the
thermocouple circuit and exposing it to a
different temperature, a gradient can be
introduced in the circuit.
• This arrangement produces the Seebeck effect
• The voltage generated by the thermocouple is
given as (4)
where β is the Seebeck coefficient (thermo
electric power of thermocouple materials) and
∆T is the temperature difference between the
hot & cold junctions.
• In practice, the cold junction is maintained at
a constant temperature (normally 0
C by
dipping in ice water).
• β depends on the thermocouple wire
materials and the range of temperature
T V A = |

• One serious drawback of the thermocouple as
microthermal transducers is that the output
decreases as the size of the wires and beads
(junction) is reduced.
• A microthermopile is ideal micro heat sensor.
• A thermopile operates with both hot & cold
junctions but thermocouples are arranged in
parallel while the voltage output in series.
• Materials for the thermopile wires are same
as that used for thermocouples.

• The voltage output from a thermopile can be
expressed as (5)
where N is the number of pairs in the
• An example thermopile is shown. 32
polysilicon-gold thermocouples were
constructed on a silicon die (3.6 mm x 3.6 mm
x 20 μm).
• Typical output signal of 100 mV is available
from a 500 K blackbody radiation source of Q

= 0.29 mW/cm
with 50 ms response time.
T N V A = A |
• A capacitance type pressure sensor can also
be used to measure temperature.
• In this method, the deformation of the
diaphragm occurs when exposed to thermal
sources and the variation in capacitance gives
the measure of temperature.
• The sensitivity of such devices is low
compared to thermopiles.
• Actuation means generation of mechanical
movement for controlling some activity.
• Actuator is an important part of microsystem
that involves motion.
• 4 methods for actuation –
1) Thermal forces
2)Shape memory alloys
3) Piezoelectric crystals
4) Electrostatic forces
• Electromagnetic actuation is popular in macro
scales but are rarely used in microdevices due
to unfavorable scaling rules.
• The driving power for the actuators is
dependent on the specific application

Thermal forces
• Bimetallic strips are used as actuators based
on thermal force.
• These strips are made by bonding together
two materials with different expansion
• The strip will bend when heated or cooled
from initial reference temperature due to
incompatible thermal expansion.
• The strip will return to its initial shape when
the thermal force is removed.
• Microclamps and Microvalves use this
principle of microactuation.
• In these cases, one of the strips is used as a
resistance heater and the other could be
made from silicon or polysilicon.

• α1 & α2 are the thermal expansion
coefficients of the constituent materials with
α1 > α2.
Shape memory alloys
• A more accurate and effective method of
microactuation is by using shape memory
alloys (SMA) such as Nitinolor or TiNi alloys.
• These alloys tend to return to their original
shape at a preset temperature.
• The SMA strip is originally in a bent shape at a
designated preset temperature T attached toa
silicon cantilever beam.
• The beam is set straight at room temperature.
• When the strip is heated to temperature T, it
will return to the bent shape causing the
attached silicon beam to bend with the strip.
• Used in micro rotary actuators, micro joints,
robots and microsprings.
Piezoelectric crystals
• Certain crystals like quartz, deform with the
application of an electric voltage.
• Also an electric voltage gets generated when
the crystal deforms with an applied force.

• Such a crystal can be attached to a flexible
silicon cantilever beam which gets bent when
a voltage is applied to the crystal.
• Piezoelectric actuation is used in microclamps
and micropositioning mechanism.
Electrostatic forces
• Accurate assessment of electrostatic forces is
an essential part of the design of many
actuators and micromotors.
• The induced electrostatic field between two
charged particles with charge q & q’ separated
by a distance r is given by
Newtons (6)

• The force is repulsive if both charges are +ve
or –ve and attractive if they are opposite.

• If we consider two charged plates instead of a
single charge then the capacitance between
the plates is given by equation (2).
• The energy associated with the electric
potential between the plates is
Negative sign indicates a loss of potential
energy with increasing applied voltage.

2 2
c c
÷ = ÷ =
• The associated electrostatic force normal to
the plates (in the d direction) is
• Ex : Determine the Electrostatic force on the
plates of a parallel plate capacitor with a plate
dimension of L=W=1000 μm with an air gap of
2 μm.

• 11 mN force is generated with100 V
c c
÷ =
÷ =
2 6 2
2 6
6 12
10 106 . 1
) 10 2 ( 2
10 10 85 . 8
÷ ÷
× ÷ =
× ×
÷ =
• The electrostatic force in the width (W) and
Length (L) directions can be derived from (8).
• These forces are induced with partial
alignment of the plates in the respective
• In general (9)
can be used to derive these forces where i is
the direction in which the misalignment
(10) (11)
÷ =
c c
÷ =
c c
÷ =
• The force in W direction is independent of
width while the force in L direction is
independent of length.

• Electrostatic forces are the prime driving
forces of micromotors.
• The drawback of electrostatic actuation is that
the force that is generated by this method is
low in magnitude.
• Its application is primarily limited to acuators
for optical switches, microgrippers and
MEMS with microactuators
• The electrostatic forces generated by parallel
charged plates can be used as the driving
force for gripping objects.
• Either normal force (parallel plates) or in-
plane force (pairs of misaligned plates) can be
used to provide the gripping force.
• Former one is simple in practice but consume
more space for electrodes.

• Later arrangement has multiple pairs of
misaligned plates and is referred to as the
comb drive.
• The electrostatic force generated by these
pairs of misaligned plates tends to align them.
• This action bends the arm and closes the
extension arms for gripping.
• These microgrippers can be used in
micromanufacturing processes and

• EX : For the comb drive operating in air as
shown, determine the voltage required to pull
the moving electrode 10 μm from the
unstretched position of the spring. The spring
constant k is 0.05 N/m. The gap between the
electrodes is 2 μm and width is 5 μm.

• The required travelling distance δ = 10 μm.
Equivalent spring force F = kδ = 0.5 μN.
There are two sets of electrodes and each set
has to generate 0.25 μN.
By equation (11), we get

which yields V = 150.33 V
6 12
10 2 2
10 5 10 85 . 8
10 25 . 0 V
÷ ÷
× ×
× × ×
÷ = ×
• Two types – linear and rotary.
• They work based on elctrostatic forces.
• The sliding force generated by a pair of
electrically energised misaligned plates
produces the motion in a linear motor.

• Each of the two sets of base plates contain
many electrodes made of conducting plates of
length W.
• The fixed plate has a pitch of W whereas the
moving plate has slightly higher pitch say
• On energising a pair of electrodes A & A’ the
moving plate moves towards left until both A
& A’ are aligned.
• At this point energise the pair B & B’ to move
the top plate a further distance of W/3.
• This process can be repeated for other sets of
electrodes to induce additional motion.
• The smaller the preset misalignment of the
electrode plates, the smoother the motion
• By redesigning the structure of the plates,
rotary motors can be made to work on the
same principle.
• The major problem in micromotor design is
the bearings for the rotors – electric levitation
principles are used for this purpose.
• Electrodes are installed on the outer surface
of the rotor poles and on the inner surface of
the stator poles.

• The pitches of the electrodes are slightly
mismatched for the electrostatic driving force
to develop when misaligned pairs of
electrodes are energised.
• The air gap between the rotor and stator
plates can be as small as 2 μm.
• The outside diameter of the stator poles are
about 100 μm while the length of the rotor
poles is about 25 μm.
• One major design problem encountered is the
wear and lubrication of the moving parts.
• Typically these motors rotate at about 10,000
• At such high speeds, the bearings quickly wear
off and the rotor starts wobbling.
• Microtribology which deals with friction, wear
and lubrication is a critical research area in
Microsystem design.

• Microvalves are primarily used in industrial
systems that require precision control of flow -
gas flow for manufacturing process or blood
flow in biomedical systems.
• The growing market is in the pharmaceutical
industry in microfluidic systems for precision
analysis and separation of constituents.
• In the basic design of microvalves, a cantilever
silicon diaphragm moves to close the inlet on
heating the resistor rings mounted on it.
• Removal of heat from the diaphragm opens
the valve again allowing the flow of fluid.
• The heating rings are made of aluminum 5 μm

• The valve has a flow capacity of 300 cm
at a pressure upto 100 psi.
• 1.5 W of power is required to close the valve
at 25 psi.
• In another type of construction, a liquid is
heated using electrodes which in turn bends
the silicon membrane causing the flow to
• Even the flow rate can be controlled by
controlling the bending of the diaphram.

• A simple micropump can be constructed by
using electrostatic actuation of a diaphragm.
• The deformable silicon diaphragm forms one
of the electrodes of a capacitor which can be
actuated and deformed toward the top
electrode by applying a voltage.

• The upward motion of the diaphragm
increases the volume in the pumping chamber
which decreases the pressure.
• This causes the inlet check valve to open and
allow in flow of fluid.
• When the applied voltage is removed, the
diaphragm returns to its original position
pressurising the pumping chamber.
• This causes the outlet check valve to open and
the allow the out flow of the fluid.
• This pump has a diaphragm of 4 mm x 4 mm x
2 μm thick; The gap between the diaphragm
and the electrode is 4 μm.
• The pumping frequency is upto 100 Hz.
• At 25 Hz, a pumping rate of 70 μL/min is
• A piezopump has piezoelectric material coated
outside the tube wall which create a wave
motion of the wall.
• This wave motion exerts pressure on the fluid
inside the tube causing the pumping action.
• An accelerometer is an instrument that
measures the acceleration (rate of change of
speed) of a moving object.
• Microaccelerometers are used to detect the
associated dynamic forces in a mechanical
system in motion and are widely used in
automotive industry.
• ±2g range accelerometers are used in
suspension system and antilock breaking
system (g = 9.81m/s
• ±50g range accelerometers are used to
actuate the airbags in case of collision.
• Most accelerometers are built on the principle
of vibration – a mass supported by a spring
and a damping device (dashpot).

• In the case of microaccelerometers, a different
arrangement is necessary due to limited space
• A minute silicon beam with an attached mass
(seismic mass) constitute a spring mass system
– and the air surrounding it forms the
damping effect.
• A piezoresistor is implanted on the beam to
measure the deformation due to attached
mass and thus the acceleration of the body
which is related to the driving dynamic force
that causes the vibration.
• Accurate measurement of the acceleration
(vibration) enables us to measure the applied
dynamic force.
• So accelerometers of different ranges can
provide us information on excessive vibration
in a vehicle or state of the suspension system
or state of the engine etc.
• Different types of accelerometers available
commercially – piezoelectric, piezoresistive,
capacitive and resonant membrane.
• The most widely used application of
microaccelerometer is for airbag deployment
with integrated transduction.
• A beam with an electrode is attached to two
tethers at both ends (made up of elastic
material and anchored at one end).

• The thin beam acts as the seismic mass and
the attached electrode is placed between two
fixed electrodes.
• In the event of acceleration, the displacement
of the mass will be in the direction opposite to
acceleration which is correlated to change in
capacitance between the fixed electrodes.
• The arrangement shown will measure the
acceleration only in the direction along the
length of the beam mass.
• To measure the acceleration in both x & y
directions, following arrangement has to be
• Another compact arrangement is shown
where the beam is replaced by a squareplate
that can displace both in x & y directions.
• Microfluidic systems are widely used in
biomedical & pharmaceutical precision
manufacturing processes.
• Applications - Chemical analysis, biological &
chemical sensing, drug delivery, molecular
separation (DNA analysis, amplification,
sequencing or synthesis of nucleic acids) and
environmental monitoring.
• They are also essential part of precision
control system for automotive & aerospace.
• Advantages
1. Ability to work with small samples –
significantly smaller and less expensive
biological and chemical analysis.
2. Better performance with reduced power
3. Biotech systems – it can be combined with
traditional electronics on a single piece of
4. They are disposable after use – safety in
application, cheaper in cleaning &
• A microfluidic system consist of nozzles,
pumps, channels, reservoirs, mixers,
oscillators and valves.
1. Microsensors used measure fluid properties
– pressure, temperature & flow.
2. Actuators used to alter the state of the fluid
– microvalves, micropumps.
3. Distribution channels regulating flow in
various branches of the system – capillary
They have a cross-sectional area in square
micrometers and a fluid flow of a few hundred
nanoliters to a few microliters.

Microchannels of noncircular cross-section are
produced by chemical etching in open
channels – two open channels are bonded to
form a closed conduit.
Typical length of these microchannels is a mm.
4. System integration – integrating the
microsensors, valves and pumps through
Involves the required electrical system to
provide electrohydrodynamic forces,
transduction and control of fluid flow.
• Microfluidic systems are built with quartz,
glass, plastic, polymer, ceramic,
semiconductor and metal.
• Electrohydrodynamic pumping is an effective
way of moving fluids in microchannels.