Date: 23 Jan 2010

Smart Sensors: Advantages and Pitfalls

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Abstract

For almost 50 years, silicon sensors have been on the market. There have been many examples of success stories for simple silicon sensors, such as the Hall plate and photo-diode. These have found mass-market applications. The development of micromachining techniques brought pressure sensors and accelerometers into the market and later the gyroscope. These have also achieved mass-market. The remaining issue is how far to integrate. Many of the devices on the market use a simple sensor with external electronics or read-out electronics in the same package (system-in-a-package). However, there are also many examples of fully integrated sensors (smart sensors) where the whole system is integrated into a single chip. If the application and the device technology permit this, there can be many advantages. A broader look at sensors shows a wealth of integrated devices. The critical issues are reliability and packaging if these devices are to find the applications. A number of silicon sensors and actuators have shown great commercial success, but still many more have to find their way out of the laboratory. This paper will examine the development of the technologies, some of the success stories and the opportunities for integrated Microsystems as well as the pitfalls.