MEMS: The Biggest Word In Small

What’s tiny and on track to be worth $22 billion dollars by 2018? MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems). That’s a catch-all phrase for microscopic devices that have moving parts. Usually, the component sizes range from 0.1 mm to 0.001 mm, which is tiny, indeed. There are some researchers working with even smaller components, sometimes referenced as NEMS (Nano Electrical Mechanical Systems).

Resonant Cantilever by [Pcflet01], CC BY-SA 3.0
MEMS have a wide range of applications including ink jet printers, accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, pressure sensors, displays, and more. Many of the sensors in a typical cell phone would not be possible without MEMS. There are many ways that MEMS devices are built, but just to get a flavor, consider the cantilever (see right), one of the most common MEMS constructions.

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Tiny LED Earrings Are A Miniaturization Tour De Force

Light up jewelry is nothing new – we see wearables all the time here. But home brew, self-contained, programmable LED earrings that are barely larger than the watch batteries which power them? That’s something worth looking into.

assembly5Settle back and watch [mitxela]’s miniature wizardry in the video below, but be forewarned: it runs 36 minutes. Most of the video is necessarily shot through a microscope where giant fingers come perilously close to soldering iron and razor blade.

The heart of the project is an ATtiny9, a six-legged flea of a chip. The flexible PCB is fabricated from Pyralux, which is essentially copper-clad Kapton tape. [Mitxela] etched the board after removing spray-paint resist with a laser engraver – an interesting process in its own right.

After some ridiculously tedious soldering, the whole circuit wraps around a CR927 battery and goes into a custom aluminum and polypropylene case, which required some delicate turning. Hung from off-the-shelf ear hooks, the 12 multiplexed LEDs flash fetchingly and are sure to attract attention, especially of those who know Morse.

This isn’t exactly [mitxela]’s first tiny rodeo, of course. We’ve featured his work many times, including a Morse code USB keyboardthe world’s smallest MIDI synthesizer, and the world’s smallest MIDI synthesizer again.

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