News Release

Innovative composite accelerometer for extreme environments

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences

A schematic of the accelerometer.


A schematic of the accelerometer. a Typical structure of a MEMS comb-type accelerometer, b single-meandered spring, c double-meandered spring.

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Credit: Microsystems & Nanoengineering

In a study researchers from the Delft University of Technology announced the development of a novel surface micromachined accelerometer. This innovative device leverages a silicon carbide-carbon nanotube (SiC-CNT) composite, offering unprecedented durability and performance in harsh environments.

The demand for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) resilient to harsh environments is growing. Silicon-based MEMS struggle under extreme conditions, limited by their performance at elevated temperatures. Silicon carbide (SiC) stands out as a promising solution, offering unmatched thermal, electrical, and mechanical advantages for creating enduring MEMS. Despite its potential, SiC MEMS development is challenged by the intricacies of bulk micromachining, calling for innovative strategies to harness SiC's strengths in crafting robust devices. In response, scientists have crafted an accelerometer using a novel silicon carbide-carbon nanotube (SiC-CNT) composite, capable of enduring severe environmental stress. Published in Microsystems & Nanoengineering in April 2024, this research (DOI: 10.1038/s41378-024-00672-x) unveils a revolutionary material fusion, merging SiC's durability with the versatility and conductive qualities of CNTs.

This work merges the resilience of SiC with the versatility of CNTs. The team's approach involves growing a CNT array and densifying it with amorphous SiC via chemical vapor deposition, creating a material with outstanding mechanical strength, superior electrical conductivity, and high thermal stability. This SiC-CNT composite enables the production of high aspect ratio structures, crucial for the sensitivity and efficiency of MEMS devices, while ensuring robust performance in extreme temperatures and corrosive environments.

Professor Sten Vollebregt, the lead researcher, stated, "This advancement not only overcomes longstanding fabrication challenges but also significantly enhances the mechanical and electrical properties of MEMS devices. Our SiC-CNT composite accelerometers are poised to revolutionize the deployment of MEMS in environments where conventional devices simply cannot survive."

The fabricated capacitive accelerometer showcased the composite's potential in MEMS applications, particularly for devices requiring operation in high-temperature, high-radiation, and corrosive environments. Such accelerometers are critical for aerospace, automotive, and industrial monitoring systems, where reliability under extreme conditions is paramount.





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Funding information

Financial support by the iRel40 Project is acknowledged gratefully. iRel40 is a European co-founded innovation project that has been granted by the ECSEL Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement NO876659. The funding of the project comes from the Horizon 2020 research programme and participating countries. National funding is provided by Germany, including the Free States of Saxony and Thuringia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.

About Microsystems & Nanoengineering

Microsystems & Nanoengineering is an online-only, open access international journal devoted to publishing original research results and reviews on all aspects of Micro and Nano Electro Mechanical Systems from fundamental to applied research. The journal is published by Springer Nature in partnership with the Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, supported by the State Key Laboratory of Transducer Technology.

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