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Introduction to

MicroElectroMechanicalSystems
(MEMS)

Dr. T. RAMESH
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

National Institute of Technology: Tiruchirappalli 620015


Email: tramesh@nitt.edu

CONTENTS
Introduction to MEMS

MEMS in Automotive Sectors


MEMS in Biomedical Engineering
MEMS Fabrication techniques
Case Studies
Microgripper
Micro thruster

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INTRODUCTION TO MEMS
Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) represent a very important class of systems
having applications ranging from small embedded sensors and actuators, passive
components in RF and microwave fields, and micro-mirrors in the optical range.
The importance of MEMS stems from their many advantages, among which are,
their small compact size amendable to integration with other components,
low loss and parameter variability.

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MEMS = Micro Electro Mechanical System


Any engineering system that performs electrical and mechanical functions with
components in micrometers is a MEMS. (Micro meter to few millimeter)
Available MEMS products include:
Micro sensors: (biomedical, chemical, pressure, radiation, thermal, etc.)
Micro actuators: (valves, pumps, grippers, tweezers and tongs, etc)
Read/write heads in computer storage systems.
Inkjet printer heads.
Micro device components (mini robots and toys, micro surgical, etc.)

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Example of MEMS devices

What is MEMS Technology?


Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, is a technology that in its most general form
can be defined as miniaturized mechanical and electro-mechanical elements (i.e., devices and
structures) that are made using the techniques of microfabrication.

The critical physical dimensions of MEMS devices can vary from well below one micron on the
lower end of the dimensional spectrum, all the way to several millimeters.
The types of MEMS devices can vary from relatively simple structures having no moving
elements, to extremely complex electromechanical systems with multiple moving elements
under the control of integrated microelectronics.
The one main criterion of MEMS is that there are at least some elements having some sort of
mechanical functionality whether or not these elements can move.
The term used to define MEMS varies in different parts of the world. In the United States
they are predominantly called MEMS, while in some other parts of the world they are called
Microsystems Technology or micromachined devices.
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What is MEMS?
Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) is a process technology used to create tiny integrated
devices or systems that combine mechanical and electrical components.

They are fabricated using integrated circuit (IC) batch processing techniques and can range in size
from a few micrometers to millimetres.
These devices (or systems) have the ability to sense, control and actuate on the micro scale, and
generate effects on the macro scale.

MEMS consist of mechanical microstructures, microsensors, microactuators and microelectronics, all


integrated onto the same silicon chip. This is shown schematically in Figure.

Microsensors detect changes in the systems environment by


measuring mechanical, thermal, magnetic, chemical or
electromagnetic information or phenomena. Microelectronics
process this information and signal the microactuators to react
and create some form of changes to the environment.
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MEMS devices are very small; their components are usually microscopic. Levers, gears, pistons,
as well as motors and even steam engines have all been fabricated by MEMS.
However, MEMS is not just about the miniaturization of mechanical components or making
things out of silicon (in fact, the term MEMS is actually misleading as many micromachined
devices are not mechanical in any sense).
MEMS is a manufacturing technology; a paradigm for designing and creating complex mechanical
devices and systems as well as their integrated electronics using batch fabrication techniques.

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Transducer
A transducer is a device that transforms one form of signal or energy into another form. The term transducer can
therefore be used to include both sensors and actuators and is the most generic and widely used term in MEMS.
Sensor
A sensor is a device that measures information from a surrounding environment and provides an electrical
output signal in response to the parameter it measured. Over the years, this information (or phenomenon) has
been categorized in terms of the type of energy domains but MEMS devices generally overlap several domains or
do not even belong in any one category.
These energy domains include:
Mechanical - force, pressure, velocity, acceleration, position
Thermal - temperature, entropy, heat, heat flow
Chemical - concentration, composition, reaction rate
Radiant - electromagnetic wave intensity, phase, wavelength, polarization reflectance, refractive index,
transmittance
Magnetic - field intensity, flux density, magnetic moment, permeability
Electrical - voltage, current, charge, resistance, capacitance, polarization

Actuator
An actuator is a device that converts an electrical signal into an action. It can create a force to manipulate itself,
other mechanical devices, or the surrounding environment to perform some useful function.
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Applications of MEMS in Automobiles

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Automotive airbag sensors were one of the first commercial devices using MEMS. They are in
widespread use today in the form of a single chip containing a smart sensor, or accelerometer,
which measures the rapid deceleration of a vehicle on hitting an object. The deceleration is
sensed by a change in voltage. An electronic control unit subsequently sends a signal to trigger
and explosively fill the airbag. Initial air bag technology used conventional mechanical ball
and tube type devices which were relatively complex, weighed several pounds and cost several
hundred dollars. They were usually mounted in the front of the vehicle with separate electronics
near the airbag. MEMS has enabled the same function to be accomplished by integrating an
accelerometer and the electronics into a single silicon chip, resulting in a tiny device that can be
housed within the steering wheel column and costs only a few dollars.

The BMW 740i has over 70 MEMS devices including anti-lock braking systems, active
suspension, appliance and navigation control systems, vibration monitoring, fuel sensors, noise
reduction, rollover detection, seatbelt restraint and tensioning etc. Price range of the series is
Rs 73 lakh to Rs 1.2 Crore.

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If your vehicle has ESP (Electronic Stability Program) on board, it provides you with two other
active safety systems: the Antilock Braking System ABS and the Traction Control System TCS.
ABS prevents the wheels from locking during braking; TCS prevents the wheels from spinning
when starting off and accelerating.

HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning; also heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is
the technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to provide thermal
comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.
A tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is an electronic system designed to monitor the air
pressure inside the pneumatic tires on various types of vehicles.
TPMS report real-time tire-pressure information to the driver of the vehicle, either via a gauge, a
pictogram display, or a simple low-pressure warning light.

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Modern airbag with rollover detection also


rely on MEMS inertial sensors (gyroscopes
and low-g accelerometers)

Concepts for applications of automotive


sensors and accelerometers. MEMS could
be used to activate suspension systems,
control engines and emmissions, control
vibration, and cancel noise

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The new availability of personal


computing made it possible to
apply
pattern
recognition
techniques
to
complex
measurement data.
An important consequence of the
concept is that a substance, or
mixtures of substances, can only
be recognized after a calibration
phase: in order to match a
pattern, it must be known
beforehand
(seen
before)
substances
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A
Piezoresistive
MEMS
Cantilever
based
Experimentation Platform for Vapour Phase Analysis
of Volatile Organic Compounds and Gases. It
comprises an Analyte Chamber, a Detection
Chamber, Mass Flow Controllers along with multichannel real-time graphical display, data logging and
PC software
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The MEMS pressure sensor detects the tensile


stress on a thin silicon membrane that changes the
piezo-resistance of elements on the membranes
surface.

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Why Microfabrication?
Conventional macroscale manufacturing techniques e.g. injection moulding, turning,
drilling etc, are good for producing three dimensional (3D) shapes and objects, but can be
limited in terms of low complexity for small size applications.
MEMS fabrication, by comparison, that involves the addition or subtraction of two
dimensional (2D) layers on a substrate (usually silicon) based on photolithography and
chemical etching.

Miniaturization Issues
MEMS is not about miniaturization; it is a manufacturing technology used to create tiny
integrated microdevices and systems using IC batch fabrication techniques.
Similarly, miniaturization is not just about shrinking down existing devices (although there
have been some classic examples, namely the DENSO Micro-Car as shown in Figure); its
about completely rethinking the structure of a microsystem.
The DENSO Micro-Car is a miniature
version of Toyotas first passenger car.
Fabricated using MEMS, at 1/1000th
the size of the original, it consists of a
0.67 mm magnetic-type working
motor and when supplied with 3 V 20
mA of alternating current through a 18
m copper wire, the engine runs at
600 rpm equivalent to 5-6 mm/s .

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Fabrication of MEMS Devices


Bulk Micromachining
Surface Micromachining and
High-Aspect-Ratio Micromachining (HARM) which includes technology such as
LIGA (a German acronym from Lithographie, Galvanoformung, Abformung
translated as lithography, electroforming and moulding).

In order to manufacture a successful MEMS device basic physics and operating principles
including scaling laws need to be fully understood and appreciated at both a macro and
microlevel.
Sometimes no advantages in terms of performance, size/weight, reliability and cost can be
gained with a MEMS device. Increased surface area (S) to volume (V) ratios at microscales
have both considerable advantages and disadvantages.

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Some of these micro level issues include:


Friction is greater than inertia. Capillary, electrostatic and atomic forces as well as stiction at
a micro-level can be significant.
Heat dissipation is greater than heat storage and consequently thermal transport properties
could be a problem or, conversely, a great benefit.
Fluidic or mass transport properties are extremely important. Tiny flow spaces are prone to
blockages but can conversely regulate fluid movement.
Material properties (Youngs modulus, Poissons ratio, grain structure) and mechanical
theory (residual stress, wear and fatigue etc.) may be size dependent.
Integration with on-chip circuitry is complex and device/domain specific. Lab-on-a chip
systems components may not scale down comparably.
Miniature device packaging and testing is not straightforward. Certain MEMS sensors
require environmental access as well as protection from other external influences.
Testing is not rapid and is expensive in comparison with conventional IC devices.
Cost for the success of a MEMS device, it needs to leverage its IC batch fabrication
resources and be mass-produced. Hence mass-market drivers must be found to generate
the high volume production.
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Photolithography
Photographic technique to transfer copies of a master pattern, usually a circuit layout in IC
applications, onto the surface of a substrate of some material.
The substrate is covered with a thin film of some material, usually silicon dioxide (SiO2), in the case
of silicon wafers, on which a pattern of holes will be formed.
A thin layer of an organic polymer, which is sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, is then deposited on the
oxide layer; this is called a photoresist. A photomask, consisting of a glass plate (transparent) coated
with a chromium pattern (opaque), is then placed in contact with the photoresist coated surface.
The wafer is exposed to the ultraviolet radiation transferring the pattern on the mask to the
photoresist which is then developed in a way very similar to the process used for developing
photographic films.

The radiation causes a chemical reaction in the exposed areas of the photoresist of which there are
two types; positive and negative. Positive photoresist is strengthened by UV radiation whereas
negative photoresists are weakened.
On developing, the rinsing solution removes either the exposed areas or the unexposed areas of
photoresist leaving a pattern of bare and photoresist-coated oxides on the wafer surface. The
resulting photoresist pattern is either the positive or negative image of the original pattern of the
photomask.

Photoresist and silicon dioxide patterns following


photolithography

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A chemical (usually hydrochloric acid) is used to attack and remove the uncovered oxide from
the exposed areas of the photoresist.
The remaining photoresist is subsequently removed, usually with hot sulphuric acid which
attacks the photoresist but not the oxide layer on the silicon, leaving a pattern of oxide on the
silicon surface.
The final oxide pattern is either a positive or negative copy of the photomask pattern and
serves as a mask in subsequent processing steps.

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Materials for Micromachining


Substrates
The most common substrate material for
micromachining is silicon. Others are:
Germanium (Ge) and Gallium Arsenide
(GaAs)
Fig: Low crystallographic index planes of silicon.
The crystalline orientation of silicon is important in the
fabrication of MEMS devices because some of the
etchants used attack the crystal at different rates in
different directions.

Materials for Micromachining- Cont


Additive Films and Materials
The range of additive films and materials for MEMS devices is much
larger than the types of possible substrates and includes conductors,
semiconductors and insulators such as:
silicon - single crystal, polycrystalline and amorphous
silicon compounds (SixNy, SiO2, SiC etc.)
metals and metallic compounds (Au, Cu, Al, ZnO, GaAs, IrOx, CdS)
ceramics (Al203 and more complex ceramic compounds)
organics (diamond, polymers, enzymes, antibodies, DNA etc.)

Bulk Micromachining
Bulk micromachining involves the removal of part of the bulk substrate. It is a subtractive
process that uses wet anisotropic etching or a dry etching method such as reactive ion
etching (RIE), to create large pits, grooves and channels.
Wet Etching describes the removal of material through the immersion of a material
(typically a silicon wafer) in a liquid bath of a chemical etchant. These etchants can be
isotropic or anisotropic.
Dry Etching relies on vapour phase or plasma-based methods of etching using suitably
reactive gases or vapours usually at high temperatures. The most common form for MEMS
is reactive ion etching (RIE) which utilizes additional energy in the form of radio frequency
(RF) power to drive the chemical reaction. Energetic ions are accelerated towards the
material to be etched within a plasma phase supplying the additional energy needed for
the reaction; as a result the etching can occur at much lower temperatures (typically 150 250C, sometimes room temperature) than those usually needed (above 1000C). RIE is
not limited by the crystal planes in the silicon, and as a result, deep trenches and pits, or
arbitrary shapes with vertical walls can be etched

Bulk Micromachining- Cont.


Isotropic vs. Anisotropic Etching
Isotropic Etching: Etching rate is the same in
both horizontal and vertical direction
Anisotropic Etching: Etching rate is different in
horizontal and vertical direction

Bulk Micromachining- Cont.


Dry Etching relies on vapour phase or plasma-based methods of etching using
suitably reactive gases or vapours usually at high temperatures.
Problems with wet etching:
Isotropic is unable to achieve pattern size smaller than film thickness.
Main Purpose of Developing Dry Etching is to Achieve Anisotropic Etching.
Type of Dry Etching Technology
1. Physical Sputtering
Physical bombardment
Ion Mill
2. Plasma sputtering
Plasma Etching - Plasma-assisted chemical reaction
3. Reactive Ion Etching (RIE)
Chemical reaction + ion bombardment
Fig: Dry Etching Process

Surface Micromachining
Surface micromachining involves processing above the substrate, mainly using it as a
foundation layer on which to build.
Basic process sequence:
Structural layer
Sacrificial layer
Release etch

LIGA
An important technology of MST, Developed in Germany in the early 1980s
LIGA stands for the German words
LIthographie (in particular X-ray lithography)
Galvanoformung (translated electrodeposition or electroforming)
Abformtechnik (plastic molding)
An important tooling and replication method for high-aspect-ratio microstructures.
The technique employs X-ray synchrotron radiation to expose thick acrylic resist of
Photoresist and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) under a lithographic mask.

LIGA is limited by the need to have access to an X-ray synchrotron facility. A compromise
which combines some features of LIGA with surface micromachining eliminating the need for
exposure to X-rays has been developed and is known as SLIGA (Sacrificial LIGA)
Advantages of LIGA
LIGA is a versatile process it can produce parts by several different methods
High aspect ratios are possible (large height-to-width ratios in the fabricated part)
Wide range of part sizes is feasible - heights ranging from micrometers to centimeters
Close tolerances are possible

Disadvantages of LIGA
LIGA is a very expensive process
Large quantities of parts are usually required to justify its application
LIGA uses X-ray exposure
Human health hazard

Laser Micromachining
Most laser micromachining processes are not parallel and hence not fast enough for
effective MEMS fabrication. Nonetheless, they have utility in specialty micromachining or
making moulds.
Lasers have found other applications in MEMS but only in a limited capacity; laser drilling,
laser annealing and etching are the most common forms.

When MEMS components are put into oration, they constitute systems, in which electrical,
thermal, mechanical, and other physical phenomena take place and interact with each other.
From mathematical modeling and simulation point of view, this calls for multi-physics
treatment, in which coupled systems of differential equations of different combinations of
electromagnetic, mechanical, fluid, heat transfer and/or transport equations, are formulated
then solved depending on the type of boundary conditions imposed by MEMS component
under investigation.
Mathematical modeling and simulation has been used in all fields and disciplines of
engineering for decades, for theoretical characterization of devices and systems before
manufacturing, or even before prototyping, for a number of reasons among which are
reduction in manufacturing cost and time.
However, the heterogeneous nature of MEMS structures, coupled with multi-physics
phenomena that take place during their operation, makes modeling and simulation of MEMS
components, a complex and challenging task.
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Applications of Microgripping Device

High-precision, pick-and-place operations


Microassembly, Nanoassembly
Micro-object sorting
Force-controlled handling of sensitive objects
Compression testing of hydrogel beads and other
micro/nanostructures
Bio-research
Sample preparation

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