Medical Electronics Symposium Conference Proceedings


MEMS IN MEDICINE

Authors: Ken Gilleo, Ph.D.
Company: ET-Trends LLC
Date Published: 4/25/2005   Conference: Medical Electronics Symposium


Abstract: MEMS, or Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems are chips that are made in semiconductor fabs that combine electronic functions and mechanical actions. MEMS devices can sense and control making them valuable for numerous applications that include ink jet printers, automotive motion sensors and even digital projectors. But MEMS can also be used in the medical field to measure blood pressure within the body and detect ions. MEMS analyzers can be used to perform biological tests and even sequence DNA. This paper will describe the rapidly emerging field of BioMEMS and discuss present and future applications.

Remarkable advancements in medicine are increasingly accomplished through the innovative application of electronics, photonics, and related advanced technologies. Longer range preventive medicine and very early preemptive intervention are becoming essential strategies to more cost-effective health maintenance made practical through continuing advances in diagnostics and wellness assessment enabled by leading-edge technology from other fields. Early medicine emphasized external examination of the patient.

Later, breakthroughs such as x-ray permitted internal examination from the outside. Electronic and photonic advancements have enhanced these diagnostic techniques, but new devices and extreme miniaturization now permit examination, sensing, and monitoring from inside the patient. Concurrent breakthroughs in molecular biology and better understanding of coding and functions of DNA, is building up knowledge that will make diagnostics even more powerful and allow deployment of preventive and interceptive medical techniques much earlier for greater success. Molecular based medicine is the ultimate frontier.

Today, MEMS devices, electromechanical chip technology, is steadily being adopted and adapted by the biomedical field to bring the significant benefits of micromechanics. MEMS, or Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, are tiny chips that can be produced by semiconductor processes to combine mechanical sensing, control and motion to solid state electronics to deliver extraordinary functionality and versatility. Essentially all of the mechanical and electromechanical machines from the macro-world can now be crafted into a tiny chip that can enter the micro-world and interact with life systems.

MEMS can sense pressure, detect motion, measure forces, identify bio-agents, pump and control fluids, and perform other actions that have great value to the medical and biological fields. BioMEMS is the term used to describe the chips designed specifically for these applications. These BioMEMS chips can serve as chemical and biological analysers, micro-pumps and controllers, hearing aid components and many more applications that will be discussed. But in the future, BioMEMS "medical practitioners" could become permanent inhabitants of the body.

Key words: MEMS, BioMEMS, medicine.



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