MEMS: The Next Revolution is beginning

By Chris Keimel, Editor

Aero Thermal & Mechanical Systems
Niskayuna, NY USA


Originally posted on GE Global Research’s blog: Edison’s Desk

More than 50 years ago, Richard Feynman urged the pursuit of micro and nano scale devices.  This pursuit has brought significant advances in micro and nano electronics made possible by the transistor.  More recently, MEMS devices, built from similar materials and leveraging the same tools set at silicon based electronics, have made their way into existence. There is even an industry group dedicated to advancing MEMS. Just a few weeks back, the Managing Director of the MEMS Industry Group stopped by our research center to learn more about our ongoing research.

About 15 years ago, the New York Times published an article about the future of an exciting technology called MEMS. We are living the realization of MEMS technology and today, GE is on the verge of enabling a whole new revolution in MEMS applications. But I digress. First of all, you are probably wondering what MEMS devices are.

MEMS stands for Micro ElectroMechanical Systems and are tiny (smaller than the width of your hair) microscopic sensors and actuators that most of us use every day without ever realizing it.  If you are reading this blog post from a smart phone, you are using MEMS inertial sensing devices right now to control your screen orientation.  If you drove a car to work today, a MEMS accelerometer was protecting you in your car’s airbag sensor.  Some of the very first MEMS devices were ink-jet print heads and pressure sensors.  Later today when you de-stress from a long work day playing your favorite Wii game, you will encounter MEMS again. The MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes in the game controller are what senses your motion and is what makes these games possible. Yes, MEMS devices are all around us! Be sure to check out the short clip below where I explain how MEMS devices are used in different parts of a car including the engine, tires and the airbags.

Our MEMS team is developing an entirely new class of devices that will span across numerous applications from consumer to commercial and industrial products.  This device platform is enabled by novel materials that deliver orders of magnitude improvement to device performance.

We’re excited to soon share with all of you what GE researchers are doing with MEMS technology. Next week, we will take you inside our Cleanroom where much of our MEMS work is done. And two weeks from now, we will reveal some of revolutionary applications we are working to enable. They are applications that impact just about every person on the planet, everyday.



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