Tracking a Sudden Fail of Microelectormechanical Systems

Microelectromechanica systems

What time does it take before the minute parts of microscopic equipment become unusable as a result of deterioration? What warning signals do you need to watch out for that will show that the components will soon fail to function as required? In a bid to provide swift answers to the various questions that need prompt responses, researchers at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) have come up with a method to promptly track Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) functions when working and when they fail or will not work.

By adopting this method for the analysis of microscopic failures, both manufacturers and researchers can enhance the dependability of the various components of MEMS they are building. This covers miniature robots down to drones and to the very little forceps for sensors and eye surgery in a bid to spot the very small quantity of poisonous chemicals.

The scientists have been busy with many studies to support their claims. In the last ten years, NIST researchers have carried out measurements of the interactions and motions between the components of MEMS. In their recent study, the scientists were successful in carrying out these measurements in as much as one hundred times quicker even unto the scale of one thousandths instead of tenths of a second.

For the quicker time scale, the researchers are able to resolve minute facts of the erratic and the transient motions that happen prior to and at the time MEMS failed. Repetitive testing is also made possible by the faster measurement. This is needed for assessing how durable the tiny mechanical systems are. The research team of National Institute of Standards and Technology, among who are Craig Copeland and Samuel Stavis, explained their research in the Microelectrochemical Systems’ journal. You can find more information about the findings in their publications. You can find more information in the reference provided in this text.

Like their past work, the MEMS components were labeled by the team using fluorescent particles instead to monitor their movements. The researchers were able to track movements as little as billionths of one meter and revolutions as minute as many millionths of one radian. A microradian is an angle comparable to a measurement of an arc of around ten meters lengthwise the distance that covers the earth circumference.


The scientists make use of bigger fluorescent particles and a quicker imaging system that sends out more light as tools to carry out their particle-monitoring measurements that is 100 times faster than it was initially.

According to Copeland, if you are unable to measure the movement pattern of a microelectromechanical system component at specified time scales and relevant length, the result is that it becomes hard to know how they function. This also makes it difficult to know how to make them perform better.

In the researchers’ test system, Copeland, Stavis and other researchers tested a portion of a microelectromechanical motor. The test portion snapped to and fro, turning the gear in a circular pattern via a ratchet instrument. Despite the fact that the system is among the more dependable MEMS which transmit motion via friction, it however, can develop problems resulting in failures and erratic performance.

The team discovered that the knocking together of frictional parts within the system can play a major role in how long the MEMS would last.

Stavis also said their tracking technique is widely appropriate to study microsystems motions. So, they’ll continue to develop and improve on it further.


  1. Craig R. Copeland et al, Particle Tracking of Microelectromechanical System Performance and Reliability, Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems (2018). DOI: 10.1109/JMEMS.2018.2874771

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