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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


New Tech Tuesdays: From Smartphones to Hearing Aids: The Versatility of MEMS Audio Rudy Ramos

New Tech Tuesdays

Join Rudy Ramos for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

In recent years, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has revolutionized the audio industry. MEMS technology in audio applications uses tiny mechanical components to convert electrical signals into sound waves, allowing for smaller, more efficient audio devices.

This week, we explore the latest advancements in MEMS audio technology and how it is changing the way we experience sound.

What Makes MEMS Amazing

MEMS speaker technology uses a tiny diaphragm, which vibrates when an electrical signal is applied to it. These vibrations produce sound waves, which are then amplified and sent to the listener's ear. The diaphragm is typically made of a flexible material, such as aluminum or polyester. The size of the diaphragm can vary, but it is typically around 1–2 millimeters in diameter.

There are numerous advantages to speakers using MEMS technology. Here are just a few:

  • Much smaller than traditional speakers, making them ideal for portable devices such as smartphones, earbuds, and hearing aids
  • Require less power to operate, so they can run for extended periods on a single charge
  • Less expensive to produce, making them an attractive option for manufacturers

Piezoelectric materials have been used in conjunction with other materials ranging from semiconductors to magnets and then integrated into MEMS devices (piezoMEMS) to create various devices for a wide range of applications. Some of these include energy harvesting, RF resonators, sensors, transducers, flexible circuits, and microphones (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Infineon XENSIV™ MEMS microphones are designed for applications requiring low self-noise, a wide dynamic range, and an extended pick-up distance. (Source: Infineon Technologies)

The Latest Advancements in MEMS Audio Technology

One of the most notable devices to join the long list of piezoMEMS devices is high-fidelity (Hi-Fi) speakers.[1] These speakers can produce Hi-Fi audio with clear and detailed sound. They are also able to reproduce a wider range of frequencies, which means they can handle complex audio with ease.

Another significant advancement in MEMS technology is the development of multi-driver systems. These systems use multiple MEMS speakers to produce sound, which allows for a more immersive listening experience. Multi-driver systems can also produce louder sound, making them ideal for use in noisy environments.

The Future of MEMS Audio Technology

As MEMS audio technology advances, we can expect to see even smaller and more efficient MEMS speakers. This will allow for the development of even smaller portable and wearable devices that can produce high-quality audio.

Virtual reality (VR) is another area where MEMS technology is expected to have a significant impact. MEMS speakers are already being used in VR headsets, providing an immersive audio experience that complements the visuals, but as VR technology advances, we can expect to see even more advanced uses of MEMS audio technology.

The Newest Products for Your Newest Designs®

This week’s New Tech Tuesday showcases an innovative MEMS device from Infineon Technologies.

Infineon Technologies' XENSIV™ MEMS Microphones represent a breakthrough in audio sensor technology. These silicon-based microphones empower design engineers to create cutting-edge products in industries such as consumer electronics, automotive, IoT devices, and smart home applications, where high-quality audio capture is essential. With a focus on high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), low distortion, and wide dynamic range, the XENSIV MEMS microphones ensure exceptional audio quality in diverse environments. Design engineers benefit from the microphones' ultra-low self-noise, enabling precise capture of quiet and loud signals without compromising clarity. Additionally, the microphones feature tight phase and frequency response, ensuring accurate sound reproduction. Their innovative Sealed Dual Membrane MEMS technology provides high ingress protection (IP57), making them suitable for challenging environmental conditions.

Tuesday’s Takeaway

MEMS audio technology has come a long way in recent years. As technology advances, we can expect to see even smaller and more efficient MEMS speakers capable of producing Hi-Fi audio. Whether listening to music on your smartphone or immersing yourself in a virtual reality world, MEMS technology is changing how we experience sound.

   

Sources:

[1] “Solid-State Fidelity.” xMEMS, https://xmems.com/.



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Rudy RamosRudy is a member of the Technical Content Marketing team at Mouser Electronics, bringing 35+ years of expertise in advanced electromechanical systems, robotics, pneumatics, vacuum systems, high voltage, semiconductor manufacturing, military hardware, and project management. As a technology subject matter expert, Rudy supports global marketing efforts through his extensive product knowledge and by creating and editing technical content for Mouser's website. Rudy has authored technical articles appearing in engineering websites and holds a BS in Technical Management and an MBA with a concentration in Project Management. Prior to Mouser, Rudy worked for National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.


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