8 MOEMS applications and their impact on technology

MOEMS (Micro-Opto-Electro-Mechanical Systems) is an interdisciplinary field that combines micro-fabrication techniques from the semiconductor industry with optics and mechanical engineering.

These small devices, typically measuring on the micrometre scale, are used for a variety of applications such as microlithography, display technology, sensors, optical communication, biomedical applications, and many more.

The field of MOEMS is rapidly growing and has been gaining attention due to its potential in various fields. In this blog, we will look at 8 MOEMS applications and their impact on technology.

1. Microlithography

MOEMS devices are widely used in the semiconductor industry for microlithography, which is the process of creating patterns on silicon wafers to produce integrated circuits. MOEMS devices, such as micro-mirrors and micro-shutters, are used to project and align the patterns onto the wafers with high precision. Intel and TSMC use MOEMS devices in their advanced fabrication processes to create smaller and more efficient transistors.

2. Display technology

Digital micromirror devices (DMDs) are used in projectors and pico projectors. These devices use an array of micro-mirrors to modulate the intensity of light, creating the images we see on a screen. Texas Instrument's DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology uses a DMD and is widely used in projectors and rear-projection TVs.

3. Sensors

MOEMS technology can be found in a variety of sensor applications, including optical imaging, spectroscopy, and interferometry. MOEMS-based optical imaging systems can be used for applications such as medical imaging, machine vision, and optical microscopy. Other applications, such as biosensors, have been developed for use in point-of-care diagnostics and in-vitro molecular analysis in biotechnology.

4. Optical communication

Wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) systems allow multiple signals to be transmitted over a single optical fibre. MOEMS devices, such as micro-mirrors and micro-shutters, are used to modulate and switch the optical signals. Such optical switches are used in data centres and telecommunications networks to increase the capacity and flexibility of optical networks.

5. Biomedical applications

The increased use of MOEMS technology is being researched and developed for a variety of biomedical applications, such as drug delivery, lab-on-a-chip systems, and biosensors. These devices can be used to perform precise manipulation of biological cells and molecules and can also be used for monitoring and diagnostics in medical applications. Micro-pumps have also been developed for precise and controlled drug delivery in medical applications using MOEMS-based micro-needles for painless and efficient vaccination.

6. Environmental monitoring

A range of sensors have been developed for environmental monitoring such as air and water quality monitoring. These sensors can be made small, low-power, and low-cost, making them ideal for widespread deployment in various locations. For example, MOEMS-based gas sensors can be used to monitor air quality in smart cities, and water quality sensors using the technology can be used for monitoring water resources in remote locations.

7. Automotive industry

Sensors and actuators are commonly used in the automotive industry for applications such as active suspension and adaptive cruise control. These devices can quickly and precisely detect and respond to changes in the environment, improving the safety and performance of vehicles. MOEMS-based accelerometers can be used for stability control systems in vehicles, and optical sensors can be used for collision avoidance systems.

8. Robotics

A wide range of devices are used in robotics for applications such as micro-manipulation and motion control. These can provide precise and accurate control over the movement of robotic arms and other mechanisms, allowing for greater precision and dexterity in robotic systems. For example, MOEMS-based microgrippers have been developed for use in micro-assembly tasks in manufacturing, and micro-positioning stages have been developed for use in precision metrology and inspection tasks.

As the race for smaller, lighter, faster, and more complex products continues, MOEMS technology offers Original Equipment Manufacturers a wide range of options and applications across various market sectors. With advancements in materials and fabrication techniques, we can expect even more real-life applications of MOEMS in the future. The technology has huge potential to revolutionize the way we live and work in the future and is already built into many of the products we use and rely upon each day.

Written by Wolfgang Plank and Alexander Grabher

Based in Switzerland, Wolfgang has been the Section Head of MOEMS at ESCATEC since 2013, leveraging his Diplom in microelectronics. With a background in R&D and Project Management, Wolfgang oversees R&D technology services, process development, technology consulting, and serves as a system architect, contributing significantly to ESCATEC's innovative microelectronics advancements. Based in Switzerland, Alexander holds a Bachelor's degree in microelectronics and specialises in product and process development of micro-opto-electronics-mechanical-systems (MOEMS). Alexander often shares his insights at industry events when asked to do so on topics such as miniaturised ToF sensors and how the performance of these can be improved.