MEMS Semiconductor Technologies: A game
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MEMS Semiconductor Technologies: A game

Oct 17, 2023

By Kapil Bardeja, CEO & Co Founder- Vehant Technologies

Micro Electro-mechanical System (MEMS) is a game changing technology that has taken the microsensors & microactuators market by a storm. Progressing fast in being used as microsensors, this technology has found its way in building explosive trace detectors (ETD). MEMS Microheater based ETD instrument satisfies all the requirements of an effective platform for trace detection, detecting explosives at sensitive areas thus playing an important role in maintaining national security. Major advances in Low noise electronics & instrumentation and Sophisticated AI/ML algorithms have made possible usage of MEMS in trace, vapor and stand-off explosives detection. It's possible that due to small size, low power and low cost of production future explosive detection market may shift to microsensors only instead of expensive IMS/ITMS technologies

The need for explosive trace detection system is paramount in controlling the frightening increase in explosive based terrorism. MEMS technology is a game changer for explosive trace detection since it supports mass deployment of miniature sensors that are sufficiently sensitive, selective, inexpensive and amenable for mass production. The devices based on this technology are revolutionizing the ETD industry. Moreover, MEMS technology in physics-based sensors is a ground breaking combination in explosive trace detection. The working principle of the physics-based semiconductor is responsible for the sensor to detect and differentiate between the objects. They are built for high operating temperatures to offer high sensitivity and selectivity towards the explosive traces. This technology is being used in detecting minuscule quantities of explosive traces in objects or on person to refute any incidents. MEMS communicates effectively with electrical components in semiconductor chips and the explosive trace detection industry is revolutionized using this technology by combining mechanical, chemical and electronic actions.

The major advantages of MEMS-based sensors that count for its increasing demand in ETD market for commercial manufacturing are its low cost and simple fabrication process. They are built keeping in mind low power consumption, high sensitivity, significantly small size and potentiality of array of fabrication. These sensors are light weight, have high resolution, offer stable performance and can be easily integrated with other systems and devices. Another important aspect that boosts the efficiency of ETDs is their clear-down time. Clear down-time is the time needed for a detector to recover from an alarm through a repeated sequence of automated cleansing to clear out the residual sample from the machine until the signal is reduced below the threshold. The machines now available have very low clear-down time where the analyte is purged from the MEMS sensor.

MEMS based ETDs can be easily carried around and used in temperature-controlled environments indoors as well as outdoors performing well in bright sunshine and extreme temperatures. They are operated on rechargeable batteries. They are further able to screen mass material with exclusive capabilities of analyzing both vapor and swipe samples. The innovation and research on this technology has enhanced the efficiency and accuracy of the detectors and their spectral libraries when trace explosives are analyzed.

The MEMS-based ETD devices are capable of detecting inorganic and peroxide-based explosives, military and commercial grade explosives, rudimentary and homemade explosives produced in ‘backyard’, unlike the ETD units without this technology integration. The range includes explosives like RDX, PETN, TNT, AN, PEK etc. This technology integration of MEMS and ETD system is a silver bullet in commercially available explosive trace detection units that are capable of identifying potential explosives easily. It has proven to be highly accurate and provides consistent results during trials. It is heralded into single unit with ability to detect almost all types of explosives with high selectivity and sensitivity and minimum false positives. Another major advantage of this technology is its speed with which it performs functional screening of people and objects in high-throughput areas like airports, stations, etc. Such all-in-one detection devices were a dream a few years ago, but now are being fielded in numerous secure area locations across the globe and have made ETD a reality for homeland security.

Conclusively, with increasing terrorist threats of different types, detection of various forms of explosives has gained considerable momentum. ETD machines equipped with MEMS technology are in high demand to detect traces of explosives on people and objects. Nanosensors are versatile in performing receptor-free as well as receptor-based detection and are capable of integrating with multiplexed multi-modal sensor system. The technology is promising for strengthening and enhancing homeland security besides various other technologies for the same purpose.