Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), also known as microsystems technology in Europe, or micromachines in Japan, are a class of devices characterized both by their small size and the manner in which they are made. MEMS devices are considered to range in characteristic length from one millimeter down to one micron – many times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
MEMS will often employ microscopic analogs of common mechanical parts and tools; they can have channels, holes, cantilevers, membranes, cavities, and other structures. However, MEMS parts are not machined. Instead, they are created using micro-fabrication technology similar to batch processing for integrated circuits.
Many products exist today that use MEMS technology, such as micro heat exchangers, ink jet printer heads, micro-mirror arrays for high-definition projectors, pressure sensors, infrared detectors, and many more.
MEMS sensors perform the same data input collection tasks as their larger electro-mechanical counterparts while also introducing some advantages, such as contact-free operation. Sensors that are now captured in MEMS include sensors for measuring pressure, motion, acceleration, temperature, magnetic field, and light, as well as gyroscopes, inclinometers, switches, capacitive touch sensors, and even microphones. As a relatively new technology, new MEMS devices can continually be found at Mouser.
MEMS oscillators and clocks are a silicon-based alternative to traditionally larger crystal-based devices. MEMS versions can be more accurate long term and more than ten times smaller than traditional oscillators. MEMS versions offer exceptional stability and a higher tolerance for shock and vibration as compared to crystal-based products. Part-count is reduced and reliability increased with the ability to completely integrate all timing functions into one integrated chip with MEMS oscillators. Thus, MEMS oscillators can offer much more than simple replacement of existing crystals.
MEMS technology is being incorporated into many devices with widely varying functions. Other MEMS devices include digital light mirrored devices (DLP) used in media projection, as well as RF switches, reed switches and even miniature fans or blowers. Re-engineering electro-mechanical devices with MEMS technology provides advantages such as a significant reduction in size and a tighter level of integration to electronics. This translates into fewer moving parts, greater reliability, and a lower weight implementation. Often, the MEMS version is more stable, reliable, and requires much less power to operate. The wide diversity in how we use MEMS technology today reinforces the fact that MEMS is a significant force of innovation that is changing the future direction of applications and associated markets.