Since the first introduction in 1970’s, MEMS technology is becoming popular in many different application areas, including military, automotive, and consumer electronics, as it provides cheap, small, and smart sensors and actuators. This technology is especially critical for biomedical applications, resulting in a new research area shortly called BioMEMS.
BioMEMS can be defined in general as “devices or systems constructed using techniques inspired from micro-fabrication that are used for processing, delivery, manipulation, analysis, or construction of biological and chemical entities.” Application areas of BioMEMS range from diagnostics to micro-fluidics, systems for drug delivery, tissue engineering, and implantable biomedical systems. One of the most interesting application areas for this technology is the micro total analysis systems (Micro-TAS). Biological samples can be analyzed in a very small area with considerably reduced cost and time, by forming micro-fluidic channels on silicon substrate and combining them with on-chip electronics. Some examples for such applications include on-chip electrophoresis systems, polymerized-chain-reaction (PCR) units, DNA sequencing chips, and complex lab-on-a-chip devices. These kinds of systems can be incorporated with wireless electronics technology and can be implanted inside the body for real time measurement of blood chemical values. Even further, it is possible to form small reservoirs on the same chip for storing drugs and releasing them to the body according to the analysis results. Similar systems can be used for diagnosis purpose. In this case, the technology is used to detect predefined sort of cells, viruses, bacteria, proteins, or enzymes in blood or in another liquid environment. This application is very critical for prevention of diseases as well as early detection of them. Researchers are focusing on detecting small number of cells (such as cancer or HIV affected cells) in large volume blood to enable early detection of fatal diseases such as cancer or HIV. Another interesting application for BioMEMS is smart bio-implants. Combining this technology with complex CMOS circuitry, it is possible to produce biocompatible, small, smart and esthetic implants. Neural implants are a good example for such systems. They are used for recording/transmitting electrical signals from/to neural cells for controlling brain activities. Similarly, retinal and hearing implants are developed by using MEMS technology.
This course covers the basics of MEMS and biomedical micro devices together with the application areas. Objectives of the course can be listed as learning:
the unique requirements and specifications of biomedical microsystems.