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Research at a Glance

The research and development activities of the Microsystem Materials Laboratory concentrate on microsystems based on silicon technology, IC processes, and related processes. Our activities range from the design, simulation, and analytical modeling of microstructures and microsystems to the development and optimization of microfabrication and assembly methods. The devolopement of material characterization techniques and the acquisition of process-dependent material parameter support these activities. The test and the qualification of the realized components and systems complete the development chain.

Our research activities are often inspired by application perspectives derived from industrial ideas or from scientific interests of our cooperation partners. We value collaborative work within our group and with our partners; collaborations range from limited feasibility studies to large projects funded by EU or excellence cluster programs.

Our research is structured into the following areas:

Physical sensor microsystems

We realize micro-sensors to measure physical parameters using components based on silicon technology. For this purpose, we develop new concepts, optimize established methods and strive to elucidate the fundamental principles of sensor function, taking into account the properties of available materials, the technologically feasible component geometry and their operating modes. For the fabrication of devices we use the technology of IMTEK’s Cleanroom Service Center, production methods of our project partners, and commercial CMOS processes in combination with innovative micro-structuring and assembly and packaging methods. The sensor design work is supported by numerical simulations and analytical modeling and by material parameters measured in our lab. Presently our work focuses on

Microstructures and -systems for the life sciences

We develop new tools serving in the context of bio-medical research and applications. Hereby we focus on the combination of micro-structured silicon components, di-electric and biocompatible conductive layers. These components are turned into functional units and compact systems using innovative assembly and packaging techniques. Dermatology, cell biology and neuroscience have so far been the main application areas of the tools developed in our laboratory. The structures implement our own innovative concepts, while simultaneously satisfying the specifications and experimental needs of our partners in their research areas. Technology is developed as needed and integrated into process chains. Currently we contribute to the following areas:

Energy Harvesting

By scavenging energy from the environment, it becomes possible to realize energy autonomous sensor nodes. These nodes are important components in distributed sensor networks and mobile applications, where a wire-based energy supply is costly or difficult to implement. Environmental energy is available in many forms: motion and vibrations, temperature gradients, radiative power and so on. Micro-components of adequate design are capable of transduce a sufficient fraction of this energy into the electrical domain; thus they enable sensor to operate and transmit data at least intermittently. The development of such energy micro-transducers requires advances in materials and technology. Careful matching of transduction mechanism and transducer geometry with the available energy source is essential. System optimization in this field usually receives particular attention. We work on the following thermal and mechanical transduction principles and structures to exploit them:

Methods for material and system characterization

In many cases, new micro-sensors and microsystems require new methods for their characterization. Furthermore the extraction of material properties is a central prerequisite in view of realizing efficient and reliable micro-sensors. Since appropriate setups often are not available on the market, we develop our own setups addressing the required functionality. On the one hand, these techniques serve for independent material characterization projects. On the other hand, they support our projects in measuring process-dependent sensitivities and cross-sensitivities, sensor stabilities, undesired offsets, among other properties. Customers from industry as well as academic partners use our methods for their specific needs. We can act as pure service provider or partner in a more balanced research collaboration. Some of our setups have been manufactured on demand and transferred to our customers’ location.

  • Mechanical characterization

  • Piezo-resisitve coefficients

  • Magnetic characterization

  • Futher methods

Spin-off companies

Sensirion AG, Stäfa, Switzerland

Co-founded in 1998

Products: Mass flow meters, differential pressure sensors, and humidity sensors based on CMOS sensor microtechnology.

Atlas Neuroengineering, Leuven

Co-founded in 2012

Products: Neural probes, CMOS-compatible intelligent neural probes for electronic depth control.


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