A new type of pressure sensor is based on micro-optomechanical systems (MOMS) technology. Developed by imec, a research and innovation hub focusing on nanoelectronics and digital technologies, the sensor exhibits an excellent measurement precision in a large pressure range while being compact, resistant to electromagnetic interference (EMI), and having multiplexing capabilities. Leveraging imec's unique technical expertise in both MEMS and photonics, the sensor can be used in applications that require high-quality sensing, notably in the medical and life sciences domains.

High-precision, large-range pressure sensor combines MEMS and photonics technology. (Credt: imec)

“Our advanced sensor could be used in a variety of (biomedical) applications such as intracranial pressure or intravascular blood pressure monitoring, where high-quality remote sensing is required. The sensor has also proven its biocompatibility and can be used in combination with MRI technology as there are no metal parts,” says Xavier Rottenberg, group leader and principal scientist at imec. “With our current demonstrator, and the high performance it achieves on a large pressure range, imec has demonstrated the superior performance of MOMS-based pressure sensors and their potential to complement — and in some applications even replace — current MEMS-based devices.”

Pressure sensors to measure parameters such as altitude and depth, or to engage in flow sensing, are currently based on either MEMS or optical fiber technologies that bring both advantages and shortcomings. MEMS-based pressure sensors are popular because they are known for their good performance and small size. Optical fiber sensors are suitable for use in harsh environments, which can be characterized by electromagnetic interference (EMI) or high temperatures; however, they make for less integrated, more complex, and more expensive systems.

Imec's new MOMS-based pressure sensor combines the best of both worlds, as evidenced by its high precision, comparable to the precision offered by commercial MEMS, over a very large range. Moreover, it shows high tolerance to EMI and supports multiplexing. With the sensor, imec researchers have demonstrated a root mean square (rms) precision lower than 1 Pa across a large range that could easily reach 100 kP.

Imec is now looking for partners including — but not limited to — health device manufacturers interested in conducting joint research on this topic, or manufacturers to engage in joint development and/or low-volume production.

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