by Michael Niedermayer, Ph.D.
Group Manager, Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration
Almost unnoticed, microsystems are increasingly taking over essential tasks in our everyday lives. These very small devices assist doctors during operations, control the room climate, and improve the safety of automobiles. Microsystems have the capability to sense specific physical phenomena, to qualify situations, and to interact with their environment. To do this, they contain sensors for signal recording, digital circuitry for data processing, and actuators for influencing their surroundings. Several physical effects can be utilized to develop appropriate sensors. These functional components can gather data from the mechanical, thermal, magnetic, chemical, or radiant domain to transform the corresponding energy into electrical signals. Actuators convert electrical signals into energy of various physical domains to trigger events.