• MEMS: the stars of the sensor world

  • MEMS are sensors in chip format that transform mechanical movements into electrical signals. Inside, …

  • …MEMS comprise microscopic comb structures that intermesh as they vibrate. The voltage at the comb structures…

  • …is measured. Sudden movements cause changes in the level of vibration…

  • …and thus the voltage.This allows acceleration – in a vehicle, for example – to be measured.

Micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS, are to be found in umpteen sensors integrated in a vehicle's bodywork. They are used mainly to enhance vehicle safety and comfort and measure so accurately and are so sensitive that they have to be produced under laboratory conditions.

If we take a closer look at the inner workings of MEMS chips, we can see a working mechanism as intricate as clockwork – only many times smaller. The teeth of tiny comb structures less than a quarter the thickness of a human hair are intermeshed. These combs brush against each other in the event of sudden changes – for example, if a car brakes sharply or skids. The distance between the teeth then plays a crucial role. As this distance changes, so does the electrical voltage flowing through the combs, which then triggers various processes.

Hidden heroes

Industry trendsetters

MEMS can hear, register tilting movements, and deploy virtual "parachutes."


Vision for the future

Total interconnectivity


Sixth sense

Eyes and ears open: greater safety with peripheral sensors