Micro Electro Mechanical Systems

350 microns long radio frequency microswitch

Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) has become one of the most promising emerging technologies, both for the terrestial and space sectors.

MEMS includes a vast range of micro-engineering design, fabrication and processing technologies, and is multidisciplinary in nature. Indeed the basic idea from which MEMS adventure has started consists in applying manufacturing technologies typical of the world of electronics (in particular of integrated circuits, IC), to the realisation of mechanical structures (beams, gears, springs, diaphragms etc), at the micrometre scale.

MEMS devices (or Macro Nano Technologies MNT) are small and have a low mass by nature, which makes them highly attractive for space uses. On the other side, their low cost/mass production capabilities, (which derives from the IC technology), can be less exploited for space, due to the (typically) low volume of unit required.

A polysilicon layer is used for the actuator realisation

Nevertheless the great potential of MEMS in the field of innovative, high performances devices, has been recognised and pursued since the last decade, with increasing number of applications in operational missions.

Huge effort is now spent in terms of technology consolidation, and further exploitation of conventional and innovative MEMS technologies. Future R&D activities are aiming at integrating different MEMS devices into complex systems, with the ambitious goal of mass production of micro-nano-satellites for constellation applications or even more ambitious distributed nano satellites clusters for which a full new class of applications can be envisaged.

Scanning Micro-mechanical Mirror Module for fine pointing purposes of optical systems

Contact pad/beam region of a micromachined end-course detector

A two-axis tilting mirror module is under development for space conditions. It is intended for the customer’s optical bench. The module is based on the use of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology for two-axis mirror actuation. A control electronics module is used to drive the mirror.

Electrostatic actuation principle in combination with MEMS technology has the potential for low cost, low power optical beam steering capability for a large range of wavelengths.

Last update: 7 May 2014

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