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Ballistic Double Electron Waveguide for Potential Use in Analog-to-digital conversion.

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"Smarter" electromechanical systems

There are ever-increasing demands on the telecommunications industry for high performance devices. To address these, an EC funded project developed a set of MEMS (Micro-ElectroMechanical Systems) for various applications. The new MEMS work exceptionally at very high frequencies within the range from 100MHz up to THz and infrared optics.

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Exploiting the microfabrication technology MEMS integrate mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common substrate. Compared to the standardised IC (integrated circuit) process sequences, these micromechanical components are fabricated using compatible "micromachining" processes. Such processes selectively etch away parts of the silicon wafer or add new structural layers to form the mechanical and electromechanical devices. The newly developed MEMS have been designed on a membrane basis where the substrate has been locally removed. These membranes contain alternating layers of different materials with the same structural orientation. For these membranes, the quantum-physical effects become important and provide advanced possibilities, such as the possibility of detecting signals in the low signal to noise ratio regime. The new MEMS have been designed, fabricated and characterised. Currently, they are being tested for improving their life-time properties. The involved technology offers very high speed (GS/s), low power (1µW), high resolution (9 bits) analog-to digital conversion, which is very promising for the telecommunication and radar systems. More specifically, they can be used in a wide variety of applications including bolometric sensors, high-Q filters and impedance matching circuits, tuneable resonators, THz mixers and many more. These can be used by a variety of markets including the aerospace, defence, automotive, marine, navigation, communication, and oil exploration industries. Furthermore, the breakthrough technology of MEMS has the potential to revolutionise many products by realising the complete systems-on-a-chip. Essentially, this enabling technology may be used for developing "smarter" products by combining the ability of microelectronics with the control capabilities of microsensors and microactuators. In this way, it can greatly expand the design and application space of microelectronics.

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