Simple sensors and actuators are now embedded in myriad physical objects, often linked through wireless networks; examples range from intelligent pills to smart agriculture. The next generation of complex MEMS systems requires new approaches to manufacture, for example combining current planar technologies such as Si-MEMS with new methods and materials. A clear example is 3-D printing, where it will be possible to build highly complex systems from a wide spectrum of different materials (including cells and biomaterials), with embedded electronics, energy harvesting and new sensor/actuator technologies. Our group develops intelligent micro-systems with a wide range of applications. One area is systems capable of operating in harsh and demanding environments including space and nuclear facilities. The nano group currently has research funded by AWE to develop radiation hard materials and devices, focused on robust integrated circuit technology platform suitable for radiation hardened digital and mixed signal ASICs.
We are also exploiting opportunities in developing complex microsystems for environmental and medical monitoring, two areas which share many common technological challenges. We have joint research with NOCS and Ocean Science around autonomous in-situ sensor systems for ocean metrology. These systems provide a quantum leap in the ability to quantify a suite of currently hard to measure biogeochemical parameters crucial to the scientific understanding of the oceans, management of ocean resources, and supply of data for development of state of the art biogeochemical (process) models. They combine new chemical and biochemical sensors into robust deployable packages usable across multiple ocean and environmental platforms, probably the harshest environments on the planet.