MEMS structure support and release mechanism

A novel technique for protecting MEMS structures from force or acceleration events that occur prior to the deployment of the MEMS structure for its intended application


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The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is a leading developer of MEMS-based sensors and technologies for communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, including guidance systems for the next generation of smart missiles and munitions platforms.

MEMS devices are becoming ever more prevalent in military and commercial products. MEMS structures, such as accelerometers, are used in numerous applications from military munitions to computer tablets and smartphones. However, large accelerations may damage these types of MEMS structures. The development of advanced munitions systems, and other products/systems that are subjected to high acceleration forces, is often limited due to the critical failure of MEMS sensors exposed to in-flight forces and/or the harsh external vibrations generated from launch and high g-forces.  Traditional mitigation techniques, such as permanent silicon support structures, are not always satisfactory solutions.

ARL has designed and patented a MEMS support and release structure to address this need.  The invented device utilizes a number of sacrificial support structures that connect a base to a MEMS structure. It incorporates a suspension member that also connects the base to the MEMS structure, and an electrode that connects to the base to allow for an electric charge to be used to detach the sacrificial support structures at the appropriate time. The invented design protects the MEMS structure from extreme force events until the desired deployment time.

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