26 April 2001
MEMS research investment growing
Federal investment in MEMS research has grown to about $35 million annually, from just $2 million or $3 million in 1991a more than tenfold increase during the past decade, according to audits of government spending. Further, some industry analysts estimate that private-sector investment in MEMS may be as high as $100 million.
In the late 1980s, most of the federal support for MEMS came from the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, in the early '90s, concerned about the possibility of chemical warfare, the military developed an interest in MEMS.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is now financing several studies aimed at developing tiny sensors that can detect chemical agents. Private-sector research in the U.S. and Europe is directed principally at miniaturization, developing tiny analogs to conventional microelectronic devices: switches, valves, storage. Japanese research appears to be devoted to miniaturizing electromechanical components.
The Japanese and European governments are believed to be spending comparable amounts promoting MEMS research and development, with Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France coordinating their research through the European Commission to reduce duplication, according to the MEMS Exchange, a DARPA-funded Web site for MEMS fabricators.