KYOTO, Japan—Omron Corp. is expanding from its traditional medical and industrial markets for micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chips into mobile consumer devices and green energy. By repurposing its pressure sensors, radio-frequency switches and thermal infrared sensing arrays for these new markets, Omron hopes to gain design wins in smartphones, navigation and building automation.
Omron's traditional market for its pressure sensors range from their widespread blood pressure monitors to industrial applications in process control. However, by sealing the backside of its piezo-resistive pressure sensor with a silicon-to-silicon bonding technique, the company repurposed them from sensing pressure relative to atmospheric-levels to sensing absolute pressures. The new absolute pressure sensors are intended to be used in smartphones and other navigation devices that can detect what floor you are on in a building (see graphic).
By sealing the backside of its MEMS pressure sensor, altitude detection can inform navigation units of what floor you are occupying in a building.
The company is also repurposing for the mobile phone market its MEMS fab in Yasu, Japan, which produces RF switches using ohmic contacts. The tiny single-pole, double throw MEMS relays that can now handle signals from DC all the way up to 3GHz, enabling applications such as switching in and out antenna filters for different bands.
Omron has also expanded its MEMS thermal sensor technology by developing an array of eight side-by-side proximity detectors that can determine whether occupants are present in a room regardless of whether they are moving or not, allowing building automation systems to switch off heating, ventilation and air-conditioning to unoccupied rooms.