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ELECTRO MECHANICAL SYSTEM
systems used to be embedded in computers at fixed locations. Now they
are also found in nearly everyone's hands and pockets, thanks to miniaturization
of electromechanical systems.
Using the fabrication techniques and materials of microelectronics as
a basis, micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) processes are shrinking
machines to microscopic dimensions.
Already the world's smallest motors have rotors that are less than the
diameter of a human hair. These motors are poweringoptical
switches, valves and airbag deployment sensors.
To shrink machines to microscopic dimensions, NSF-funded engineers rely
on the same technology used to make integrated circuits. Mechanical components
in MEMS have dimensions that are measured in microns, from a few to millions.
MEMS machines are the size of a pinhead.
An overall strategy
MEMS are not single applications or devices, nor are they defined by a
single fabrication process or limited to a few materials. More than anything
else, MEMS represent an overall strategy combiningminiaturization,
multiple components and microelectronics
to design and fabricate integrated electromechanical systems.
NSF funded early development work, including fundamental research on microscale
phenomena, manufacturing processes and applications. This work in turn
has fueled the current multibillion dollar MEMS industry.
Widely used, MEMS devices and their use will continue to expand. Already,cars,
fighter aircraft, printers and munitions use MEMS devices,and
the devices account for a relatively small fraction of their cost, size
MEMS devices and the smart products they enable will create new opportunities
for perceiving and controlling our work and life environments and will
increasingly be the performance differentiator for both defense and commercial
While MEMS devices will be a relatively small fraction of the cost, size
and weight of these systems, MEMS will be critical to their operation,
reliability and affordability.