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MIT News (December 2015): Nanodevices at one-hundredth the cost – New techniques for building microelectromechanical systems show promise

Microelectromechanical systems — or MEMS — were a $12 billion business in 2014. But that market is dominated by just a handful of devices, such as the accelerometers that reorient the screens of most smartphones.

That’s because manufacturing MEMS has traditionally required sophisticated semiconductor fabrication facilities, which cost tens of millions of dollars to build. Potentially useful MEMS have languished in development because they don’t have markets large enough to justify the initial capital investment in production.

Two recent papers from researchers at MIT’s Microsystems Technologies Laboratories offer hope that that might change. In one, the researchers show that a MEMS-based gas sensor manufactured with a desktop device performs at least as well as commercial sensors built at conventional production facilities.

In the other paper, they show that the central component of the desktop fabrication device can itself be built with a 3-D printer. Together, the papers suggest that a widely used type of MEMS gas sensor could be produced at one-hundredth the cost with no loss of quality.

Larry Hardesty | MIT News Office December  2015

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