MEMS Help Industry Get Safer

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 @ 05:08 PM gHale


Accelerometers are everywhere.
The near-weightless technology can measure the impact of a dangerous tackle on a football player’s helmet, control the flow of highway and runway traffic, analyze a golf pro’s swing, orient the next generation of smart phones, and keeping fighter jets and missiles on target.
Essentially these tiny sensors keep people and things safe.
“The widespread penetration of miniature (microelectromechanical systems) MEMS sensors into the devices surrounding us is transforming our way of life,” said Dr. Slava Krylov of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Engineering, where his theoretical and practical work is leading to applications that could transform multiple industries.
There are now ways to improve the sensitivity of accelerometers by using an efficient yet simple and manufacturable design, which can work in applications for sports, communication, transportation and defense, Krylov said.
Krylov and doctoral student Assaf Ya’akobovitz showed, theoretically and experimentally, how amplification techniques developed at their lab can work to improve the performance of micro-accelerometers. Instead of electronically amplifying the extremely small signals produced by the accelerometer, the researchers incorporated a mechanical amplification, a sort of a miniature clock hand, in order to generate a larger signal output, thereby reducing the devices’ noise and improving their sensitivity.
Almost every kind of machine used in transportation and communication relies on accelerometers Krylov said. They work in high-end navigation devices for airplanes and missiles, and are in iPhones as motion sensors. His latest advances in sensitivity enhancement could go toward all of these current uses, and in lucrative and untapped business applications as well, he said. In the car safety industry alone, the market is worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Krylov’s device architecture uses a tiny electrode, a silicon chip, and a mechanical transformer coupled with an optical sensor to amplify the tiniest changes in motion and acceleration. Currently, the device is about 1 millimeter in diameter, but they can manufacture it at an even smaller size than that. “It’s always better to be smaller,” he said, explaining the accuracy of the devices is especially critical on space missions, when a fraction of distance and time can alter the course of a space vehicle or satellite forever.
Designed for the mass market, Krylov is also taking the core technology from his accelerometers to go toward new directions like harvesting clean energy and in novel medical applications. But these developments, he says, are farther in the future.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.