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Micro- and Nanoelectromechanical Systems


Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are integrated devices with critical applications in sensing, timing, signal processing, and biomedical diagnostics, among others. They have become ubiquitous in a diverse set of markets including wireless communications, consumer products, automotive, aerospace, and medical devices. This project is focused on advancing measurement science for micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS) in order to increase device performance, functionality, and reliability. Our research ranges from fundamental studies of device physics to measurement methods used in manufacturing.

Technical Goals:

Increase the performance, functionality, and reliability of MEMS/NEMS through advances in measurement science, standards, and technology, which will promote innovation and competitiveness in the U.S. MEMS/NEMS industry and for its customers. This is achieved by:

  • Developing new tools and methods to advance measurement science for MEMS/NEMS
  • Investigating device physics
  • Developing and standardizing test methods and reference materials for manufacturing
  • Developing self-calibrating and traceable MEMS/NEMS sensors to support precision measurements


MEMS/NEMS are enabling technologies that bring new functionalities with the potential to radically transform markets ranging from consumer products to national defense. The meteoric rise of the smartphone is an excellent example, in which MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, displays, and RF filters and oscillators provide functionality that has made the most sophisticated mobile phone from a decade ago look like a relic. The MEMS industry is expected to continue to grow quickly, particularly due to the establishment of the Internet of Things, which requires ubiquitous sensing, computing, and communications. This project is focused on innovations in measurement science that support the continued growth of the MEMS/NEMS industry, including new measurement techniques, the application of these techniques to fundamental problems in device physics and reliability, process and wafer-level manufacturing metrology, and standard test methods and reference materials. Due to the enormous diversity of devices found in this field, the research topics covered by the project are selected to match with growth areas identified by industry and to be the well-positioned within the NIST mission. Our current research is focused in the following areas:

  • Motion Metrology for MEMS/NEMS
  • BioMEMS and Microsystems Metrology
  • Optomechanical Inertial Sensors

Major Accomplishments:


  • Designed and fabricated the components for a self-calibrating optomechanical accelerometer, including concave silicon micromirrors with better than λ/20 shape and 2 mg silicon proof masses suspended by silicon nitride flexures
  • Demonstrated displacement interferometry on nanostructures with beam widths down to 100 nm and achieved 200 MHz bandwidth and resolution better than 150 fm/rt-Hz
  • Extended the concept of localization precision in super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to centroid and orientation precision for moving rigid bodies with constellations of optical point sources and validated this approach through Monte Carlo simulations
  • Developed a new optical method based on displacement sensing for measuring the nonlinear and nonconservative forces on optically trapped particles in air or vacuum, as well as other parameters, including particle diameter, oscillation frequency, gas viscosity and temperature


  • Performed a quantitative comparison of optical coherence tomography and laser scanning confocal microscopy for measuring the internal structure of microfluidic devices, particularly with respect to channel depth, width, and shape
  • Developed a multilayer microfluidic device that reduces the critical distance between cells under test and the time for cell-cell interactions by a factor of 100 compared to traditional methods
  • Led the development of five SEMI standards on through-silicon vias and wafer bonding as related to the fabrication of integrated circuits and MEMS (SEMI 3D5-0314, SEMI 3D8-0514, SEMI 3D9-0914, SEMI 3D10-0814, SEMI 3D11-1214)


  • Developed a new measurement technique for measuring the quasi-static motion of MEMS based on super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, resulting in a localization precision of 0.13 nm
  • Demonstrated the dielectrophoretic trapping of cells on adhesive-coated polyester membranes that support cell growth for long-term studies (weeks) on cell-cell communication and motility
  • Released an updated user's guide for the MEMS 5-in-1 reference materials (RM 8096 and 8097) including detailed information on the prescribed measurement procedures and uncertainty analysis for Young's modulus, residual strain, strain gradient, step height, in-plane length, residual stress, stress gradient, and thickness
An aluminum nanobeam that has been used to evaluate the performance limits of laser interferometry on nanostructures. Widths range from 100 nm to 600 nm.
Figure 1. An aluminum nanobeam that has been used to evaluate the performance limits of laser interferometry on nanostructures. Widths range from 100 nm to 600 nm.

End Date:


Lead Organizational Unit:



  • U.S. MEMS Industry
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Texas at Austin

Industry Groups: ITRS, iNEMI, MEMS Industry Group, SEMATECH

Facilities/Tools Used:

  • Multiple interferometric microscopes for measuring the motion of RF MEMS/NEMS resonators
  • An upright fluorescence microscope with particle tracking capabilities for measuring MEMS motion
  • Tools for measuring the mechanical properties and dimensions of MEMS and microfluidic devices


Jason Gorman, Project Leader
Richard Allen
Jon Geist
Thomas LeBrun
Darwin Reyes


Yiliang Bao
Kiran Bhadriraju
Vikrant Gokhale
Aveek Gangopadhyay
Felipe Guzman Cervantes
Joseph Majdi
Craig McGray
Brian Nablo
Haesung Park
Jeong Hoon Ryou
Lei Shao

Related Programs and Projects:


Jason Gorman

100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8120
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8120