MEMS Devices Information

MEMS devicesMEMS devices integrate mechanical components, electronics, sensors, and actuators on a semiconductor material, chip, or wafer. They are built with advanced microfabrication and micromachining techniques to support a system-on-a-chip (SoC). An abbreviation for microelectromechanical systems, MEMS embeds very small devices in consumer electronics, medical devices, and industrial sensors.


Typically, MEMS devices are found in computers, microphones, and iPhones; lab-on-a-chip (LOC) devices, biosensors, and microarrays; and sensor chips for industrial and commercial applications. In the automotive industry, MEMS devices are used for both pressure sensing and inertial sensing. Available for other applications:

  • MEMS accelerometers
  • MEMS mirrors
  • MEMS valves
  • MEMS connectors
  • MEMS switches


Like other integrated circuits (ICs), MEMS devices are built in semiconductor materials such as silicon and with IC process sequences such as complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS), bipolar, and bipolar CMOS (BICMOS) processes. The fabrication and micromachining technologies that are used to produce these tiny devices include photolithography, deposition, and etching. MEMS foundries design and manufacture microelectromechanical devices on a contract basis, in amounts ranging from prototype to production quantities. Typically, these companies use MEMS processing equipment such as silicon etching tools, wafer grinders, lapping and polishing machinery, and planarization equipment. MEMS production equipment is used to manufacture MEMS devices such as accelerometers and gyroscopes for inertial sensing applications, and geophones for both seismic sensing and vibration sensing.


There are many different types of MEMS devices and several basic categories. These include:

  • fluidic MEMS
  • optical MEMS
  • bio-MEMS

Fluidic MEMS devices are used in flow and pressure sensors, pneumatic valves, and membrane pumps for biological, chemical, medical, and pharmaceutical applications. Optical MEMS devices include very small mirrors for scanning and imaging applications, and miniaturized connectors and switches for fiber applications. MEMS mirrors are low-cost, deformable devices with thousands of actuators and advanced microstructures. Typically, they are used to shape wave fronts. Bio-MEMS devices are used to analyze and measure biological matter for biomedical analysis and in total analysis systems (TAS). RF MEMS devices are also available. These tiny parts provide radio frequency (RF) functionality and include MEMS resonators, which vibrate in specific patterns to function as band-pass filters.

Related Information

Electronics360—The Internet of Things Needs MEMS and Sensors—Plus More Security and Better Software

IEEE Spectrum—Beyond Touch: Tomorrow's Devices Will Use MEMS Ultrasound to Hear Your Gestures

IEEE Spectrum—Apple Watch's Wristful of Sensors and MEMS

IEEE Spectrum—New MEMS for Monitoring Bridges

Image credit:

ColinMB / CC BY-SA 3.0


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