Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)

Image: MEMS technology allows incredibly tiny electro-mechanical devices to be produced. Dozens of such devices are on this 1 sq. cm. chip developed at SwRI.

MEMS technology allows incredibly tiny electro-mechanical devices to be produced. Dozens of such devices are on this 1-sq.-cm. chip developed at SwRI.


Image: Staff members design and test MEMS devices using wafer fabrication technology to achieve miniature moving parts that respond to electrical and physical stimuli. Hundreds of MEMS devices can be contained on a 1 cm to the second power chip.

Staff members design and test MEMS devices using wafer fabrication technology to achieve miniature moving parts that respond to electrical and physical stimuli. Hundreds of MEMS devices can be contained on a 1-cm2 chip.

Engineers design and test MEMS actuators at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) that use wafer fabrication technology to achieve miniature moving parts as small as 200 x 50 x 5 µm3 (tens of microns across) that respond to electrical and physical stimuli. These actuators have been used to develop a variety of devices, including an optical cross-connect switch and a miniature mechanical timed relay switch. The optical cross-connect switch is a smaller, less expensive switch, with an increased port count, which can be used in high-speed optical networks. The timed relay switch is the first MEMS device to exert force over a significant distance on an object external to the MEMS actuator. Other MEMS actuators are being used as components of a high current electrical relay and a MEMS Materials Lab on a Chip for determination of material properties and device lifetime studies. A 3D profiling system is being developed to make accurate surface measurements of MEMS structures.

Joe Mitchell, Senior Research Engineer

MEMS Facilities Strengths

  • A Class 1000 clean room
  • Metrology tools
    • Optical profilometer
    • Atomic force microscope
    • Scanning electron microscope
  • Operational analysis and packaging
    • Probe station
    • Wirebonder and ball bonder
  • Processing tools
    • Laser micromachining
    • Direct write printer
    • Spin coater
Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 11 technical divisions.
04/15/14