MEMS Switch Triggered by Gas

MEMS switch triggered by the detection of a specific gas.

Simple and inexpensive to batch-fabricate, calibrate and operate Low-power, low-weight, small footprint design Speed – ability to deploy in the field and detect in real time


An integrated ‘smart’ device which combines the functions of a mass threshold value gas sensor and an electro-mechanical (MEMS) switch that actuates an alarm or defensive security system. A smart switch that is actuated on the detection of a substance.  The centerpiece of this “smart” switch electro-mechanical technology is an analyte-coated microbeam which can sense an explosive gas or biological substance. The principle of operation is that the absorption of the chemical or bio agent changes the mass on the cantilevered beam, which collapses and closes an electric circuit to activate a safety alarm or countermeasure. The novel active structure can be engineered into MEMS devices used to sense a variety of biologics, chemicals, explosives, aller-gens, drugs, pollutants, and, nanoengineered materials.  The invention relies on electrostatic actuation of a parallel plate capacitor, Figure 1, in which one plate (or any other structure of arbitrary shape) is stationary and the other plate is movable and is actuated or biased by an electrostatic DC force.  RB257  

Key Benefits

The device integrates the functionality of separate components (sensors, actuators, decision units, amplifiers, analog to digital converters) into one package  High reliability is built into the design of the device: the switch will operate only when the concentration of the hazardous gas or material exceeds an encoded threshold value  Ability to deploy in the field and detect in real time without use of lab  Simple and inexpensive to batch-fabricate, calibrate and operate 


The invented device can operate as a chemical sensor or as a biosensor  Defense and Homeland Security, e.g., detect explosives such as TNT and bio- and chemical warfare agents, including anthrax  Environmental, e.g., an array of “electronic noses” detect ozone, solvent vapors and VOCs, radon, ammonia, smoke and pollutants in factories, furnace rooms, residences, public buildings, casinos, nursing homes, dry cleaners  Food Safety, e.g., detect dangerous concentrations of bacteria and send a signal to pull the foodstuffs from the processing line for further inspection  Transportation, e.g., detect fugitive emissions in fueling facilities and parking garages, including Hydrogen, compressed natural gas, carbon mon-oxide Mine Safety, e.g., detect concentrations of methane and combustible gases 

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