Reflecting the rapid growth of the MEMS field and the commitment and success of its research community, the IEEE MEMS Conference series has evolved into a premier annual event in the MEMS area.
The MEMS2018 conference in Belfast, UK was attended by around 600 people, covering widespread applications of Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems. Asian and American academic groups were strongly represented. A keynote address by Frans Laermer of Robert Bosch pointed out the relative technological maturity of pressure sensors and accelerometers, driven by automotive applications. Consumer electronics, especially smart phones also contain MEMS devices for detecting screen orientation and health related tasks such as step counting. Although the volumes of MEMS devices made are impressive, they are still dwarfed by traditional integrated circuit manufacture, and when it comes to packaging, MEMS devices rarely have enough volume to make it worthwhile developing their own custom packages.
While the leading applications are relatively mature, academic groups remain very fertile in developing new sensors, some with extraordinary sensitivity; my favourite was an experiment to measure the force from butterfly wings. Thin film etching and deposition are enabling technologies. Stress control of deposited films is essential when coating membranes and moving parts such as cantilevered beams: at Oxford Instruments we offer stress-controlled PECVD processes and low temperature ICPCVD processes for this application. Many teams sculpt deep channels in silicon using the cyclical deep reactive ion etch (DRIE) method, which alternates rapid etching using atomic fluorine with deposition of passivating polymer, both driven by a plasma. Oxford Instruments has patented its advanced DRIE technology for smoother sidewalls in DRIE by reducing the step length (EP 2820670 B1).
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Author: Dr Mike Cooke