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MEMS for Space


Published on Jan 16, 2016

Abstract

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) represent a growing technology with critical applications across diverse fields. Much of the industrial effort is directed toward replacing conventional technology with MEMS devices to reduce cost, increase functionality, improve reliability, and decrease size and mass

Micro-electro-mechanical systems or MEMS are micron-scale (human hair < 100 microns) devices and tools that can be fabricated in ways similar to integrated circuits and are used in industrial, automotive, defense, life sciences, and consumer applications.

Other examples of real-world MEMS devices are RF components for cell phones, miniature pressure sensors for blood pressure monitoring, DNA detectors on a chip, micro-mirror arrays for portable projectors, as well as inertial sensors for realistic computer gaming joysticks and wireless computer interfaces, etc.

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) is the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common silicon substrate through micro fabrication technology. While the electronics are fabricated using integrated circuit (IC) process sequences and 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 (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) are the integration of electrical devices and mechanical structures at the micrometer (10-6 m = 0.000001 m) scale. The essence of MEMS is their ability to perform and enhance tasks, in ways and in the micro world, impossible using conventional technologies. MEMS devices find applications in the automotive, medical, aerospace, defense and telecommunications industries.

Although, electrical devices and very few mechanical devices at this scale are common, the scaling down of common mechanical devices found in the macro world has created a research area all its own. The behavior of mechanical structures at the micro scale has yet to reach full understanding. Although, MEMS are created using many of the fully understood processing techniques used in IC (Integrated Circuit) processing with little variation, there are still many material, fabrication and packaging issues that have yet to be resolved.

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) is the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common silicon substrate through micro fabrication 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.

The semiconductor industry already has much of the infrastructure to batch process MEMS devices, however, the expertise to mass produce a wide variety of MEMS devices is still in its infancy, stimulated by research funded by both corporations and government agencies. NASA has a very special interest in MEMS technology. MEMS offer the benefits of significantly reduced mass and power consumption translating directly into direct cost benefits as a result of this. The main obstacle in rapidly integrating new technologies into space systems is determining system reliability.

Reliability, the ability of a device/system to maintain performance requirements throughout its lifetime, is a major consideration factor for making device selections for space flight applications. Space missions can be expected to last upwards of 5 years with spacecraft subject to extreme mechanical shock, vibration, temperature, vacuum, and radiation environments.

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














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