Microsystems - The next big thing Page: 4 of 7
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embedded in artillery shells have survived shock environments with accelerations exceeding 10,000 g's
without failure. Micro-gear sets can run at up to 350,000 rpm with the capability to reverse instantly and
operate efficiently with gear ratios of a million-to-one.
The other side of this coin is that microsystems are strongly affected by interfacial forces such as stiction.
Stiction is the tendency for surfaces to adhere to each other due to van der Waals, polar, capillary, and other
forces between surfaces. One way to overcome stiction problems is to apply self-assembling monolayer
coatings on problem surfaces. This use of nano-scale coatings illustrates the synergy between microsystems
and new advances in nanotechnology. Other concerns in the use of microsystems include wear, fatigue, and
friction on the microscale. Advances in the understanding of the physics of surfaces on the nano-scale will
be an important element in the commercialization of microsystems.
Applications of microsystems
Microsystems have demonstrated the capability to sense most physical quantities, including light,
temperature, pressure, acceleration, vibration, and the chemical environment.
A pressure sensor made using MEMS technology.
Photo courtesy of P. McWhorter, Sandia National Laboratories
The development of new and more capable microsensor packages is an important key to the widespread use
of microsystems. Microsensors are now being developed to optically detect multiple chemical species for
applications such as detection of chemical or biological weapons. This can be accomplished in several ways;
by combining Surface Acoustic Wave Detectors with thin surface coatings that are sensitive to specific
chemicals, by the use of chemiresistive coatings, by micro-optical techniques, or by the use of microscale
gas-chromatograph columns. Integrated "chem-lab-on-a-chip" sensor systems may someday perform the
work of an entire analytical chemistry lab in a package the size of a quarter.
A single IC with a 3 axis accelerometer and on-chip electronics.
Photo courtesy of D. Plummer, Sandia National Laboratories.
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STINNETT,REGAN W. Microsystems - The next big thing, article, May 11, 2000; Albuquerque, New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc712082/m1/4/: accessed January 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.