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Consumer apps to drive MEMS

Posted: 12 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? processor? processors? optical switch? microelectromechanical systems?

The future of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will be consumer-driven, according to a Gartner Inc. analyst.

"MEMS merges perception, computation and actuation in devices that combine chemistry, telecommunications, medicine, cinema, optics, electronics and mechanics," said Jim Walker, an analyst at Gartner. "As such, it is the convergence of science and technology."

According to Walker, the current MEMS market is expected to acellerate over the next few years as consumer products begin driving the market. MEMS manufacturing technology combines both mechanical and electronics properties, and is compatible with nanotechnology, Hence, MEMS is enabling what Walker called "the ultimate systems-on-a-chip."

By 2010, Walker said, MEMS components could be a $10 billion market, while products enabled by MEMS technology could grow to as much as $95 billion.

Among the most visible MEMS applications are digital light processors, which integrate millions of tiny mirrors onto a chip to enable ultrabright projection displays. Other automotive applications like airbags have been around even longer.

Automotive applications will continue to use more MEMS-based sensors like wireless tire-pressure sensors. But the fastest growing MEMS areas in the next few years will be consumer devices, Walker predicted.

"For instance, silicon microphones are already being used in cellphones and that trend will increase; also accelerometers and gyroscopes will be added to Global Positioning Systems as well as shock detectors in laptops and in cellphones," he said.

MEMS-based biomedical sensors and implants are another potential growth market along with optical switches that could eliminate bulky, expensive optical-to-electronic-to-optical switches, Walker predicted.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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