Microtechnology is smaller, lighter and more effective than ever before, and is now replacing many traditional technologies in high-tech products. For example, miniaturised components, such as sensors, increase functionality without taking up a lot of space; new findings in the field of micromaterial processing are providing surfaces with unimagined properties; and analytical tools are becoming independent, mobile systems, such as chip-based laboratories.
Microtechnology is changing the performance and functionality of products and their manufacturing processes for good. Companies developing microtechnology and nanotechnology see themselves as partners for improving products and methods of production and making them more cost-effective. Dr Uwe Kleinkes, who represents an association of companies and institutes in the field of microtechnology, says: “By encouraging the use of microtechnology, these companies can help widen technical horizons, make product manufactur-ing more efficient and, ultimately, improve competitive ability.
INTEGRATING MICROCOMPONENTS TO CREATE INTELIGENT SYSTEMS
The relatively young industry – micro- technology – has started to combine individual innovations to create intelligent systems. Instead of developing individual nano- and microcomponents, the companies are focusing on integrating these components in entire systems, because it is this that makes tech- nological quantum leaps possible in the fields of optics, fluid technology, biology, medicine and electronics. For example, in sensor technology, information can be obtained, and processed, using electronics, and made available as signals and data for further use. A project is currently under way in the US, in which sensors are being used to measure the air flow acting on the wings of aircraft. If the air flow changes, the sensors act as signal generators to trigger any nanoscale change required on the surface of the wings to stabi-lise the aircraft
FROM WAFERS TO MICROELECTRONICS LABS
Wafers are products from the field of microsystems technology. They are used in a wide range of markets and lines of business. In labs-on-chip systems, these wafers act as microelectronics laboratories to enable laboratory values to be measured quickly. In the pharmaceuticals indus- try, nano spray systems are used in the development of sprays to help improve the treatment of pulmonary diseases, such as asthma.
Microreactors are used in the chemicals industry to enable the production of small amounts of chemical products cost-effectively or in research to simulate large-scale plants.
In pressure, inclination and acceleration sensors, wafers make driving safer. In three-dimensional gyrosensors, they help position helicopters, aircraft and satellites.
In semiconductor production, wafer-level packaging makes it possible to package silicon chips systematically, using glass instead of the individual ceramic packaging that is used today.
Microfluid technology opens up new possibilities for analysing
very small fluid and gas samples in labora- tories. A number of
laboratory processes require reliable, automated handling processes
for liquids. However, many dosing machines are limited by the
number of dosing heads available and the amount of mixtures that
can be processed at the same time. The new generation of dosing
robots can handle a sample pool with more than 200 substances and
manufacture mixtures with a sample size of between one and ten
grams in a machine that covers a very small area.
LASER-BASED MICROMATERIAL PROCESSING
In the field of laser-based micromaterial processing and
structuring, ultraviolet (UV) and short-pulse lasers provide a
range of possibilities in selective surface functionalisation for
medical or lab-on-chip applications, microjoining technology and
microconnection technology. UV and short-pulse lasers make it
possible to manufacture complex microsystems in one production step
or develop microsystems with mobile components. Different materials
with adjust-able properties, such as strength and optics, can be
integrated in these processes.
The microtechnology trade fair organised by Deutsche Messe (German Fairs) and IVAM in April, in Hanover, provided up-to-date information on cutting-edge innova- tions in microtechnology and nano-technology.