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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


This paper reports a new type of electronic, recoverable skin-like pressure and strain sensor on flexible, bio-degradable pencil eraser substrate and has been fabricated by a solvent-free, low-cost and energy efficient process. Multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNTs) film as strain sensing element was patterned on pencil eraser by rolling pin and pre-compaction mechanical press which induces high interfacial bonding between the MWCNTs and eraser substrate which enables the sensor to achieve recoverability under ambient conditions. Eraser, serves as a substrate for strain sensing as well as acts as a dielectric for capacitive pressure sensing, thereby eliminating the steps of dielectric deposition which is crucial in capacitive based pressure sensors. Strain sensing transduction mechanism is attributed to the tunneling effect caused due to the elastic behavior of MWCNTs and strong mechanical interlock between MWCNTs and eraser substrate which restricts slippage of MWCNTs on eraser thereby minimizing hysteresis. The gauge factor of the strain sensor was calculated to be 2.4 which is comparable to and even better than most of the strain and pressure sensors fabricated with subtle design and architecture. The sensitivity of the capacitive pressure sensor was found to be 0.135MPa-1.To demonstrate the applicability of the sensor as artificial electronic skin the sensor was assembled on various parts of human body and their corresponding movement and the touch sensation were monitored. The entire fabrication process is scalable and can be integrated to large area for mapping spatial pressure distribution. This low cost, easily scalable MWCNT rolled pin eraser based pressure and strain sensor has huge potential applications as artificial e-skin in flexible electronics and medical diagnostics especially in surgeries as it provides high spatial resolution without complex nanostructure architecture.

Concepts: Carbon nanotube, Pressure, Microelectromechanical systems, Transducer, Sensor, Sensors, Pressure sensor, Eraser


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


Measuring gravity from an aircraft or a ship is essential in geodesy, geophysics, mineral and hydrocarbon exploration, and navigation. Today, only relative sensors are available for onboard gravimetry. This is a major drawback because of the calibration and drift estimation procedures which lead to important operational constraints. Atom interferometry is a promising technology to obtain onboard absolute gravimeter. But, despite high performances obtained in static condition, no precise measurements were reported in dynamic. Here, we present absolute gravity measurements from a ship with a sensor based on atom interferometry. Despite rough sea conditions, we obtained precision below 10-5 m s-2. The atom gravimeter was also compared with a commercial spring gravimeter and showed better performances. This demonstration opens the way to the next generation of inertial sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope) based on atom interferometry which should provide high-precision absolute measurements from a moving platform.

Concepts: Metrology, Force, Accuracy and precision, Microelectromechanical systems, Accelerometer, Geodesy, Gravimetry, Gravimeter


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