Our research group designs, fabricates, and tests microdevices that are primarily made using a process in which conventional foundry CMOS is followed by simple micromachining steps. This process provides us with high-performance electronics integrated on a chip with electrostatically actuated microstructures, capacitive and piezoresistive sensors, and polysilicon thermal heaters. Projects include micromechanisms for magnetic probe-based data storage, accelerometers and gyroscopes for inertial sensing, and ciliary sensors for tactile and acoustic imaging. Of particular interest is how large arrays of these sensors and actuators may improve overall system-level performance. Issues include system design and integration, distributed control and communication, and interfacing to the environment.
MEMS are coupled multi-domain systems and, therefore, are difficult to design without expertise in a diverse set of fields. To address this problem, MEMS designers and CAD developers work closely together in a synergetic research environment in our lab. We are developing a multi-domain hierarchical design methodology to speed up the design cycle. A MEMS schematic is being developed in which mechanical, electromechanical, and electronic elements are graphically interconnected, resulting in rapid simulation and evaluation of designs. We are also modeling topologies for common MEMS applications, such as accelerometry, to codify design constraints for use in automated synthesis tools.