Authors: S. Paddison
Affilation: Los Alamos National Lab, United States
Pages: 452 - 458
Keywords: MEMS, NEMS, pressure sensor, flow sensor, market assessment
Micromachined pressure sensors have been reported since the late 1950’s. Their application to a wide variety of commercial products was largely completed by 1990. Nonetheless, there continues to be a commercial need for pressure sensors, and pressure-based flow sensors, which have order-of-magnitude improvements in resolution and dynamic range beyond the state-of-the-art. Also, the advent of ‘nanotechnology’ creates at once increased opportunities for these sensors, but more severe constraints in terms of material stress loading. That is, ‘nanotech’ requires much smaller sensors, which must nevertheless handle the same, or higher, pressures as their ‘micro’ cousins, and be ultimately more reliable. This work presents a new capacitive pressure sensor technology, demonstrated to meet these severe constraints. After a brief description of the technology, the focus will turn to the commercial application areas for it, including the specifications for each application, as well as the market opportunities. For instance, automotive applications include manifold air pressure, mass air flow, fuel evaporation, cylinder pressure, exhaust gas recirculation pressure, transmission pressure, and air conditioner pressure. These applications represented a market of approximately 1.5B in 2000, estimated to grow to over 2.0B in 2004. Similar opportunities exist in medical pressure sensing, semiconductor processing, energy distribution (metering of residential and commercial natural gas flow) and HVAC (environmental) control.