Paper Accelerometer Could Mean Disposable Devices

Harvard lab’s paper MEMS could cost pennies and put motion sensors on mundane things

3 min read
Photo: Xinyu Liu/Harvard University
Photo: Xinyu Liu/Harvard University

Tiny microscale accelerometers revolutionized car air-bag deployment systems in the mid-1990s. Costing a few dollars apiece and just a few millimeters wide, these sensitive microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices carved from silicon replaced a bulky, multicomponent deployment system that used to cost more than US $50.

Now researchers at Harvard have fashioned a MEMS force sensor that's so cheap it could be disposable. It's made from paper, and each one costs four cents. The team presented the design and experimental results of the device at the IEEE MEMS 2011 conference last week.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper
Green

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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