MEMS/NEMS Technology

Background Information

Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) refers to a broad array of microfabricated devices that include both actuators and transducers in the realms of chemistry, biology, optics, fluidics, magnetics, mechanics, and electronics. Various MEMS technologies incorporate sensors, actuators, power sources, computation, and communication in a single system. MEMS in the context of SSAT is an acronym for the entire "micro system technologies," and it refers to the modeling, design, manufacturing, integration, validation and utilization of micro and nanoscale electronic, mechanical, optical, biological, chemical, thermal, fluidic and other components.

Nano Electro Mechanical Systems (NEMS) refers to those devices that incorporate both the dimensionality of nano as well as the novel characteristics.


The MEMS technology integrates microscopic, machine-like devices - such as sensors, valves, gears, mirrors, and actuators -- into microelectronic systems. These devices can be created with many of the same materials and methods used to make semiconductor chips.

Today, MEMS sensing devices are used to control the deployment of airbags in cars and MEMS optical devices can be found in telecommunications systems as well as in projection video displays. The future holds the promise of biomedical applications that involve microfluidics and microsensors that will improve health care. The development of MEMS enabled health measurement instrumentation promises faster diagnosis with the capability of less invasive and painful medical procedures. Micro injection needles can be applied to skin with minimal discomfort to the patient and deliver controlled doses more accurately. Non-medical MEMS devices have the potential to strongly shift paradigms in information storage and retrieval, adaptive optics, RF communications, and video display.


Although the terminology is similar, nano-electro-mechanical systems are vastly different from micro-electro-mechanical systems. Traditionally, micro becomes nano when the size reaches a prescribed limit, which is currently considered to be 100nm. In the true sense of nano technology, the change occurs when the construct employs properties available only at the nano scale. This provides for some interesting observations that the change is not only related to the device but also to the item under investigation. An example of this is the manufacture of holes. While it is possible to produce holes of various sizes, the area of interest for DNA analysis is 50nm. At this dimension, DNA passing through the hole will be a single strand with no overlaps or folds. If the dimension of the hole increases to more than 50nm, doubling or folding of the strand is possible. Consequently, for this particular application, a 55nm hole is not sufficient to be employed in the DNA analysis, while the 50nm is just right.

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