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Developing Multidomain MEMS Models for Educational Purposes

Final Report Summary - EDUMEMS (Developing Multidomain MEMS Models for Educational Purposes)

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), are integrated devices whose characteristic dimensions are between 1 µm and 1 mm, whose operation relies on both electrical and mechanical phenomena and components, and whose manufacturing is based on appropriately enhanced microelectronic technologies. In Europe, MEMS devices are also called simply ‘microsystems’. Thanks to the constant improvement in MEMS technology, device functionalities are being enhanced or added, their dimensions are being reduced and their reliability is being improved. As a result, microelectromechanical systems are now experiencing the most intensive growth in their history. Novel devices find use in new areas of human activity while traditional applications see a rise in efficiency and popularity. In order to keep the high pace of this growth, MEMS industry needs skilled and educated engineers. Many universities offer courses in standard VLSI design in their curricula. However, integration of electrical and mechanical components requires specific software tools and design approaches. Multi-domain 3D simulation is indispensable in this process. It provides insight into system operation with consideration of inter-domain coupling as well as allows investigation of various parameter effects on device characteristics. This way, it enables validation of new ideas, material selection and optimisation of shapes and dimensions.

Therefore, the idea of the EduMEMS project emerged in 2010. The main goal was to bring together scientists from different areas of expertise to work on design and simulation of MEMS devices. A consortium of six partners was created, including two partners from Ukraine, who was not an EU member. Thanks to the project, financed from International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES), it was possible to fund the secondments, i.e. the visits of EU researchers to Ukrainian partners and the visits of Ukrainian researchers to EU partners. The total project duration was 5 years, during which a total of 137 person-months of secondments were realized. The project allowed the fruitful exchange of ideas, knowledge and skills in the area of MEMS design. This cooperation allowed several new MEMS models to be developed, and it should be emphasized that these models included various domains, electrical, mechanical, thermal, fluidic, etc. This would not be possible without an extensive collaboration between all partners, each of whom significantly contributed to the project's success. It should be also noted that the researchers who participated in the project greatly enhanced their skills in MEMS design and simulation, strengthening the European scientific community in the field of MEMS devices. Moreover, the simulations results obtained thanks to the developed models were the basis of numerous scientific publications presented at international conferences and published in journals. Another important outcome of the project was the preparation of tutorials and manuals for students which can be later used by all partners in the educational process. These tutorials will be also printed as a separate book to allow universities from around the world to teach MEMS design to students.

In conclusion, the successful completion of the project allowed a better understanding of multi-domain physical phenomena in increasingly popular MEMS devices and the development of a European research group with an expertise in this area. Moreover, new university courses allow the students to gain the in-depth knowledge about MEMS. In the long-term, it may be a basis for the creation of new Europe-based companies dealing with MEMS design, simulation and manufacturing, with the potential impact on all areas where miniature sensors are widely used, such as ecology, medicine, smart house systems, security systems, etc.