Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MEMS Micromachining with UV Excimer Lasers

Please note where this promising new technology is being developed. Hint - it's not the private sector.

The emergence of MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems), promises to revolutionize nearly every product category by bringing together silicon-based microelectronics with micromachining technology, making possible the realization of complete systems-on-a-chip . MEMS is an enabling technology allowing the development of smart products, augmenting the computational ability of microelectronics with the perception and control capabilities of microsensors and microactuators and expanding the space of possible designs and applications.

MEMS technology is the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common substrate through microfabrication technology. While the electronics are fabricated using integrated circuit (IC) process sequences (e.g., CMOS, Bipolar, or BICMOS processes), the micromechanical components are fabricated using compatible "micromachining" processes that selectively etch away parts of the silicon wafer or add new structural layers to form the mechanical and electromechanical devices.

The University of South Florida's Center for Ocean Technology in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been working on the development of MEMS for use in marine sensor applications, among others. Scott Samson, an Optoelectronic MEMS Engineer, was looking for a technology that would enable him to micromachine micron-scale features on MEMS with extremely precise accuracy and controllability. At these dimensions and tolerances, mechanical material processing was no longer feasible, so he looked to UV laser (excimer) micromachining technology as a means of accomplishing it. The product, a MEMS device incorporating tiny movable mirrors that are approximately 100 microns wide, is key to the operation of these optical devices.


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