MEMS devices have had a long, convoluted road to commercialization, in large part because of the complexity of dealing with materials at such a small scale. However, MEMS benefited from the commercial infrastructure created for microelectronics, adapting methods and equipment to these new requirements.
In the August issue of Sensors, we highlighted up and coming MEMS devices and research, as discussed at the 2006 Hilton Head meeting (a.k.a., the Solid State Sensors, Actuators, and Microsystems Workshop). While The MEMS devices mentioned in the article are important in their own right, the well-developed MEMS infrastructure may ease the way for products that use nanotechnology at their core.
Making MEMS Pay
The Micro and Nanotechnology Commercialization Education Foundation (MANCEF) is a global group with more than 600 members that (and I quote its Web site here) "supports the creation, exchange, and dissemination of knowledge vital to the people, organizations, and governments interested in the commercialization of miniaturization technologies." This is a slightly long-winded way of saying, "we recognize that these technologies are very important. We want them to be successful and to make sure that anyone who needs to know about this stuff can find out."
Learning Lessons from MEMS
You can purchase the 2nd edition of the International Micro-Nano Roadmap from the MANCEF site. The roadmap provides a synopsis of the current state of micro and nano technology, identifying processes, application areas, and what's needed to make these technologies commercially successful.
To quote Roger Grace, a MEMS industry expert, "So, what commercialization lessons have been learned to date by the Nanotechnology industry and what are the key lessons to be learned from the semiconductor and MEMS/MST industries? 1) do not create technology for technology sake...the raison d'etre should be a well defined market need for a specific solution that is uniquely enabled by a nanotechnology-based solution. 2) care must be taken to understand competitive offerings and to communicate/promote to the market the unique customer benefit of the nanotechnology-based approach. 3) do not fall prey and participate in the great ‘hype’ of nanotechnology in the popular press."
In the meantime, you can keep up with the latest news and developments by checking the MEMS and Nano Clearing House.