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Nano- & Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems
Above: Sensors, microdevices, and microsystems contribute to planetary exploration.

Nano- & Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems

Microdevices Laboratory's Nano- and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (N/MEMS) effort focuses on delivering miniaturized sensor instruments and microsystems to reduce the mass, size, power, and, ultimately, the cost of flight missions. MDL developed such microsensors and microsystems for small satellites and other flight payloads requiring low size, weight and power.

We specifically focus on instruments capable of operation in harsh environments (extreme hot or cold and radiation hard). This includes micro/nano devices/systems/instruments for in situ, and applications, such as seismometers, magnetometer, or simply to check the clock system for wireless communication.

Besides technology development, several research projects are undertaken. The grand challenge for this technological approach is is to engineer advanced tools for new scientific discoveries using multi-functional materials. These include silicon carbide, gallium nitride (GaN), and phase change materials as well as to understand the ultimate performance limit of such mixed-domain tools given the materials in question.

Recently, MDL work in this area has focused on five technology-development efforts: Universal MEMS Seismometer (UMS), Silicon Carbide Micro Magnetometer (SiCMag), Gallium Nitride Clocks (GaNTiming), Resonant IR Detector for operation in High Temperature Environments (HotIR), and Tunable Pitch Diffraction Grating using Surface Acoustic Waves (Tunable SAW Grating).

Nano- & Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems

Products & Processes

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: HOTIR


There is a wealth of information in the long wavelength infrared (IR) region from 15 µm to 100 µm. However, the detector technologies that can measure the IR energy with low noise in this range are limited in capability and precision...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: GaN Clock

GaN Clock

Missions to hot planets, such as Venus or Mercury, have traditionally been extremely short in duration and have had a very narrow scope mainly due to the unavailability of sensors and readout electronics that can survive the extreme...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: SiC Magnetometer

SiC Magnetometer

The Silicon Carbide Magnetometer (SiCMag) is a next-generation solid-state magnetometer that leverages quantum centers—i.e. atomic scale defects—intrinsic to a SiC semiconductor to sense the magnetic fields of...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: MEMS Seismometer

MEMS Seismometer

The branch of science that can most efficiently reveal the detailed structures of planetary interiors is seismology. Previous NASA missions that have carried seismometers as payloads include the Apollo moon missions and...

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