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Panorama enhances MEMS sensors with dual-acting laser

Editorial
article image This development makes its MEMS reading system more suited for explosive environments.

PANORAMA Synergy says it has achieved significant breakthrough in optical readout technology for MEMS devices.

The company says it has demonstrated a way to simultaneously stimulate the working parts of MEMS sensors and measure their data using the same optical laser.

This is a world-first achievement, using an optical waveguide integrated with the sensor, and if further developed, could reduce the need for electronics on the chip.

Panorama Synergy is developing an optical readout technology for MEMS chemical sensor devices. Panorama’s optical readout system works by sending an infra-red laser-light through an optical waveguide, which guides the laser light in the same way as an optical fibre would. The system leverages optical interference to sense the movements of tiny micro-cantilevers in the MEMS device and therefore take readings of the MEMS sensor's motion.

Within the MEMS devices, themselves, each micro-cantilever can be coated with a substance that sticks to the specific chemical being measured, therefore changing its rate of vibration.

The optical read-out system detects these changes in vibration, in order to determine if the chemical is present.

To get the micro-cantilevers vibrating, the common approach has been to stimulate them through an electrical circuit.

However, researchers at the University of Western Australia working in collaboration with Panorama, have found a way to initiate the movement of the cantilevers using optical radiation pressure from a short, high-powered laser pulse.

This means the read-out system now has double-duty: both stimulating the cantilevers, and detecting the nature of their movement. By getting rid of the electrical stimulation mechanism, the chip has fewer electronics onboard.

The supply laser can either be mounted on the chip with the cantilevers, or placed remotely using an optical fibre to connect it to the chip.

The company has lodged two patent applications to protect its discovery in the USA and Australia.

According to Panorama, this development makes its MEMS reading system more suited for explosive environments since it eliminates the pulse of electricity, and can also reduce the cost of production for the LumiMEMS reader.

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