Peanuts vs. Pyramids: Two Perspectives on MEMS

By Stephen D. Senturia

Chairman and CTO, Polychromix, Inc.

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MEMS, the acronym for Micro-electromechanical Systems, also known simply as “Micro-systems,” come in two main types: commodity products (the peanuts) and MEMS-enabled products (the pyramids, or, more correctly, the inverted pyramids). The economics of scale greatly affect how these two classes of products are designed, built, manufactured, and sold. The contrast is illustrated with two real-world examples: The Knowles SiSonic&tm; silicon cell-phone microphone, and the Polychromix PhazIR&tm;, a fully portable battery-operated hand-held near-infrared spectrometer. At the denouement, we will discover that in spite of their apparent differences, these two types of MEMS have something very much in common.


Stephen D. SenturiaStephen D. Senturia spent 35 years as Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been involved in micro-sensor and MEMS research since the early 1970’s, working on dielectric sensors, polymers in micro-electronics, methods of material property measurement, CAD tools for MEMS, and the Polychromator, a diffractive MEMS device. Since retiring from MIT in 2002, Dr. Senturia has served as Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Polychromix, a company built on the Polychromator technology. Honor and professional societies include the National Academy of Engineering (Fellow), the IEEE (Fellow), Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi. In 2004, he was elected to a six-year term as President of the Transducer Research Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of research in micro-systems.

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  • Stephen D. Senturia (2009), "Peanuts vs. Pyramids: Two Perspectives on MEMS,"

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