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Concept: Microelectromechanical systems


This paper presents a fully differential single-axis accelerometer fabricated using the MetalMUMPs process. The unique structural configuration and common-centriod wiring of the metal electrodes enables a fully differential sensing scheme with robust metal sensing structures. CoventorWare is used in structural and electrical design and simulation of the fully differential accelerometer. The MUMPs foundry fabrication process of the sensor allows for high yield, good process consistency and provides 20 μm structural thickness of the sensing element, which makes the capacitive sensing eligible. In device characterization, surface profile of the fabricated device is measured using a Veeco surface profilometer; and mean and gradient residual stress in the nickel structure are calculated as approximately 94.7 MPa and -5.27 MPa/μm, respectively. Dynamic characterization of the sensor is performed using a vibration shaker with a high-end commercial calibrating accelerometer as reference. The sensitivity of the sensor is measured as 0.52 mV/g prior to off-chip amplification. Temperature dependence of the sensing capacitance is also characterized. A -0.021fF/°C is observed. The findings in the presented work will provide useful information for design of sensors and actuators such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and electrothermal actuators that are to be fabricated using MetalMUMPs technology.

Concepts: Structure, Microelectromechanical systems, Transducer, Accelerometer, Sensor, Sensors, Profilometer, Capacitive displacement sensor


Heavily boron-doped silicon layers and boron etch-stop techniques have been widely used in the fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). This paper provides an introduction to the fabrication process of nanoscale silicon thermoelectric devices. Low-dimensional structures such as silicon nanowire (SiNW) have been considered as a promising alternative for thermoelectric applications in order to achieve a higher thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) than bulk silicon. Here, heavily boron-doped silicon layers and boron etch-stop processes for the fabrication of suspended SiNWs will be discussed in detail, including boron diffusion, electron beam lithography, inductively coupled plasma (ICP) etching and tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) etch-stop processes. A 7 μm long nanowire structure with a height of 280 nm and a width of 55 nm was achieved, indicating that the proposed technique is useful for nanoscale fabrication. Furthermore, a SiNW thermoelectric device has also been demonstrated, and its performance shows an obvious reduction in thermal conductivity.

Concepts: Nanotechnology, Microelectromechanical systems, Photolithography, Thermoelectric effect, Electron beam lithography, Tetramethylammonium hydroxide, Thermoelectric cooling, Dry etching


Integrated chemical and biological sensors give advantages in cost, size and weight reduction and open new prospects for parallel monitoring and analysis. Biosensors based on nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are the most attractive candidates for the integrated platform. However, actuation and transduction techniques (e.g. electrostatic, magnetomotive, thermal or piezoelectric) limit their operation to laboratory conditions. All-optical approach gives the possibility to overcome this problem, nevertheless, the existing schemes are either fundamentally macroscopic or excessively complicated and expensive in mass production. Here we propose a novel scheme of extremely compact NEMS biosensor monolithically integrated on a chip with all-nanophotonic transduction and actuation. It consists of the nanophotonic waveguide and the nanobeam cantilever placed above the waveguide, both fabricated in the same CMOS-compatible process. Being in the near field of the strongly confined photonic or plasmonic mode, cantilever is efficiently actuated and its response is directly read out using the same waveguide, which results in a very high sensitivity and capability of single-molecule detection even in atmosphere.

Concepts: Mass, Nanotechnology, Surface plasmon resonance, Atomic force microscopy, Microelectromechanical systems, Sensors, Weight, Nanoelectronics


Flies use so-called halteres to sense body rotation based on Coriolis forces for supporting equilibrium reflexes. Inspired by these halteres, a biomimetic gimbal-suspended gyroscope has been developed using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology. Design rules for this type of gyroscope are derived, in which the haltere-inspired MEMS gyroscope is geared towards a large measurement bandwidth and a fast response, rather than towards a high responsivity. Measurements for the biomimetic gyroscope indicate a (drive mode) resonance frequency of about 550 Hz and a damping ratio of 0.9. Further, the theoretical performance of the fly’s gyroscopic system and the developed MEMS haltere-based gyroscope is assessed and the potential of this MEMS gyroscope is discussed.

Concepts: Microelectromechanical systems, Resonance, Harmonic oscillator, Coriolis effect, Electronics terms, Damping, Halteres, Vibrating structure gyroscope


Molecular-electronic transducers (MET) have a high conversion coefficient and low power consumption, and do not require precision mechanical components thus allowing the construction of cost- and power-efficient seismic accelerometers. Whereas the instrumental resolution of a MET accelerometer within the 0.1-100 Hz frequency range surpasses that of the best Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and even some force-balanced accelerometers, the fundamental inability to register gravity or, in other words, zero frequency acceleration, significantly constrains the further spread of MET-based accelerometers. Ways of obviating this inherent zero frequency insensitivity within MET technology have so far, not been found. This article explores a possible approach to the construction of a hybrid seismic accelerometer combining the superb performance of a MET sensor in the middle and high frequency range with a conventional on chip MEMS accelerometer covering the lower frequencies and gravity. Though the frequency separation of a signal is widely used in various applications, the opposite task, i.e., the combining of two signals with different bandwidths is less common. Based on theoretical research and the analysis of actual sensors' performance, the authors determined optimal parameters for building a hybrid sensor. Description and results for implementation of the hybrid sensor are given in the Experimental section of the article. Completing a MET sensor with a cost-effective MEMS permitted the construction of a low noise DC accelerometer preserving the noise performance of a MET sensing element. The work presented herein may prove useful in designing other combined sensors based on different technologies.

Concepts: Signal processing, Frequency, Microelectromechanical systems, Transducer, Accelerometer, Measuring instruments, Sensor, Transducers


The interactions between electric field and the mechanical properties of materials are important for the applications of microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems, but relatively unexplored for nanoscale materials. Here, we observe an apparent correlation between the change of the fractured topography of Nb-doped SrTiO3 (Nb:STO) within the presence of a built-in electric field resulting from the Schottky contact at the interface of a metallic LaNiO3 thin film utilizing cross-sectional scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy. The change of the inter-atomic bond length mechanism is argued to be the most plausible origin. This picture is supported by the strong-electric-field-dependent permittivity in STO and the existence of the dielectric dead layer at the interfaces of STO with metallic films. These results provided direct evidence and a possible mechanism for the interplay between the electric field and the mechanical properties on the nanoscale for perovskite materials.

Concepts: Electron, Strontium, Nanotechnology, Microscopy, Microelectromechanical systems, Object-oriented programming, Permittivity, Strontium titanate


The presence of external elements is a major limitation of current hearing aids and cochlear implants, as they lead to discomfort and inconvenience. Totally implantable hearing devices have been proposed as a solution to mitigate these constraints, which has led to challenges in designing implantable sensors. This work presents a feasibility analysis of a MEMS piezoelectric accelerometer coupled to the ossicular chain as an alternative sensor. The main requirements of the sensor include small size, low internal noise, low power consumption, and large bandwidth. Different designs of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers were modeled using Finite Element (FE) method, as well as optimized for high net charge sensitivity. The best design, a 2 × 2 mm2annular configuration with a 500 nm thick Aluminum Nitride (AlN) layer was selected for fabrication. The prototype was characterized, and its charge sensitivity and spectral acceleration noise were found to be with good agreement to the FE model predictions. Weak coupling between a middle ear FE model and the prototype was considered, resulting in equivalent input noise (EIN) lower than 60 dB sound pressure level between 600 Hz and 10 kHz. These results are an encouraging proof of concept for the development of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers as implantable sensors for hearing devices.

Concepts: Aluminium, Sensorineural hearing loss, Sound, Microelectromechanical systems, Accelerometer, Microphone, Transducers, Piezoelectric accelerometer


The ability to measure tiny variations in the local gravitational acceleration allows, besides other applications, the detection of hidden hydrocarbon reserves, magma build-up before volcanic eruptions, and subterranean tunnels. Several technologies are available that achieve the sensitivities required for such applications (tens of microgal per hertz(½)): free-fall gravimeters, spring-based gravimeters, superconducting gravimeters, and atom interferometers. All of these devices can observe the Earth tides: the elastic deformation of the Earth’s crust as a result of tidal forces. This is a universally predictable gravitational signal that requires both high sensitivity and high stability over timescales of several days to measure. All present gravimeters, however, have limitations of high cost (more than 100,000 US dollars) and high mass (more than 8 kilograms). Here we present a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) device with a sensitivity of 40 microgal per hertz(½) only a few cubic centimetres in size. We use it to measure the Earth tides, revealing the long-term stability of our instrument compared to any other MEMS device. MEMS accelerometers–found in most smart phones–can be mass-produced remarkably cheaply, but none are stable enough to be called a gravimeter. Our device has thus made the transition from accelerometer to gravimeter. The small size and low cost of this MEMS gravimeter suggests many applications in gravity mapping. For example, it could be mounted on a drone instead of low-flying aircraft for distributed land surveying and exploration, deployed to monitor volcanoes, or built into multi-pixel density-contrast imaging arrays.

Concepts: Earth, Moon, Gravitation, Microelectromechanical systems, Accelerometer, Volcano, Tide, Geodesy


Microelectromechanical (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are ideal candidates for exploring quantum fluids, since they can be manufactured reproducibly, cover the frequency range from hundreds of kilohertz up to gigahertz and usually have very low power dissipation. Their small size offers the possibility of probing the superfluid on scales comparable to, and below, the coherence length. That said, there have been hitherto no successful measurements of NEMS resonators in the liquid phases of helium. Here we report the operation of doubly-clamped aluminium nanobeams in superfluid (4)He at temperatures spanning the superfluid transition. The devices are shown to be very sensitive detectors of the superfluid density and the normal fluid damping. However, a further and very important outcome of this work is the knowledge that now we have demonstrated that these devices can be successfully operated in superfluid (4)He, it is straightforward to apply them in superfluid (3)He which can be routinely cooled to below 100 μK. This brings us into the regime where nanomechanical devices operating at a few MHz frequencies may enter their mechanical quantum ground state.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Electromagnetic radiation, Viscosity, Liquid, Frequency, Hertz, Wavelength, Microelectromechanical systems


Flexoelectricity allows a dielectric material to polarize in response to a mechanical bending moment and, conversely, to bend in response to an electric field. Compared with piezoelectricity, flexoelectricity is a weak effect of little practical significance in bulk materials. However, the roles can be reversed at the nanoscale. Here, we demonstrate that flexoelectricity is a viable route to lead-free microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems. Specifically, we have fabricated a silicon-compatible thin-film cantilever actuator with a single flexoelectrically active layer of strontium titanate with a figure of merit (curvature divided by electric field) of 3.33 MV(-1), comparable to that of state-of-the-art piezoelectric bimorph cantilevers.

Concepts: Nanotechnology, Materials science, Atomic force microscopy, Microelectromechanical systems, Piezoelectricity, Beam, Second moment of area, Nanoelectromechanical systems