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IEDM: Thanks for MEMS-ories

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By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

At the 60th annual International Electron Devices Meeting this week in San Francisco, there was much buzz about the 14-nanometer FinFET papers being presented by IBM and Intel. Those papers were the subject of a press release two months in advance.

Getting less attention at IEDM 2014 were the papers on sensors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices and bio-MEMS. This technology generates fewer headlines, although it is present in smartphones, fitness trackers, and many other electronic products.

Monday afternoon, December 15, saw the first MEMS-related papers presented at the conference, on nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) and energy harvesters. Donald Gardner of Intel, an IEEE Fellow, presented a paper on “Integrated On-Chip Energy Storage Using Porous-Silicon Electrochemical Capacitors,” which was supported by research at Florida International University and the University of Turku.

Gardner described how porous-silicon nanostructures were synthesized and passivated with titanium nitride through atomic-level deposition or with carbon through chemical vapor deposition. These coatings helped keep the porous silicon from oxidizing, he explained.

These electrochemical capacitors, an alternative to batteries, produced with the porous silicon could be used in energy harvesting and some applications in energy storage, according to the authors of the paper.

Session 8 of the IEDM conference also included a paper authored by France’s Institute of Electronics, Microelectronics and Nanotechnology (IEMN) and STMicroelectronics, “Fabrication of Integrated Micrometer Platform for Thermoelectric Measurements.” Maciej Haras presented the paper. He noted that 55 percent to 60 percent of energy used is released as waste heat. Harvesting energy from such heat could be a significant source of power generation in the future.

“Thermoelectricity is quite unpopular on the market,” Haras noted. Toxic materials, such as antimony, bismuth, lead, and tellurium, could be replaced by silicon, germanium or silicon germanium (SiGe) could to produce CMOS-compatible thermoelectrics, he said.

In energy conversion efficiency, silicon that is only 10 nanometers thick is 10 times more efficient than bulk silicon, Haras said.

Session 15 on Tuesday morning, December 16, was devoted to “Graphene Devices, Biosensors and Photonics.” This session featured some of the longest paper titles at the conference, such as “An Ultra-Sensitive Resistive Pressure Sensor Based on the V-Shaped Foam-like Structure of Laser-Scribed Graphene,” “A Semiconductor Bio-electrical Platform with Addressable Thermal Control for Accelerated Bioassay Development,” and “Label-Free Optical Biochemical Sensor Realized by a Novel Low-Cost Bulk-Silicon-based CMOS Compatible 3-Dimensional Optoelectronic IC (OEIC) Platform.”

Other papers were more direct, with shorter titles, such as “Flexible, Transparent Single-Layer Graphene Earphone,” which was about exactly that, and “An Integrated Tunable Laser Using Nano-Silicon-Photonic Circuits.”

Coming up on Tuesday afternoon is Session 22, devoted to MEMS and resonator technology, with six papers scheduled.

The nuts and bolts of MEMS and NEMS technology can be quite esoteric, yet such devices are crucial to the future of electronics.



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