Roger H. Grace, President, Roger Grace Associates.EE Times (10/20/2008 12:01 AM EDT)
Micro-electromechanical Systems (MEMS) began their development vis--vis the discovery of silicon's piezoresistive effect by Charles Smith of Bell Labs in 1954. Less than a decade earlier, in the same Bell Labs in New Jersey, John Bardeen and team discovered the transistor—the basis of of today's semiconductor history.
Though MEMS and semiconductor ICs share processing similarities, their business issues vary because in the 50-plus years since their discoveries, the IC market has grown to more than $220 billion, whereas the MEMS market reportedly still totals less than $10 billion. Why the discrepancy?
Most products take time and resources to transition from discovery to full commercialization. It wasn't until 1990 that full commercialization of the first MEMS pressure sensor was achieved, based on the piezoresistive effect. The adoption of accelerometers in air bags in the early 1990s, like the adoption of pressure sensors in automobiles for electronic engine control in the 1970s, was a major success.
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