Scheme and SEM pictures of a capacitive detection structure with gap reduction capability

Cooperation with industry

Within the working field of smart systems integration, Fraunhofer ENAS strongly supports the research and development of many small and medium-sized companies as well as large-scale industry. By integrating smart systems in various applications, Fraunhofer ENAS addresses the following branches and markets:

         Semiconductor and semiconductor equipment and materials industries

         Communication sector

         Medical engineering and life sciences

         Agriculture and farming

         Mechanical engineering and manufacturing

         Process measurement and control equipment

         Security sector

         Automotive industry

         Logistics

         Aeronautics

         Internet of Things

The most common way of cooperating with industrial partners is contract research. However, if the tasks and challenges are too complex, we offer pre-competitive research. In those cases, teaming up with companies and research institutes, while using public funding support, is more effective than operating alone.

In 2017, Fraunhofer ENAS has cooperated and collaborated with more than 150 partners from companies worldwide. Fraunhofer ENAS carries out direct orders as well as joint R&D projects and pre-competitive research.

Transfer of research and development results and technologies in industrial applications

Based on the application-oriented focus of research, Fraunhofer ENAS is able to support innovations developed together with small and medium-sized companies as well as large-scale, internationally established companies. For instance, Fraunhofer ENAS transferred technological expertise to partners in Germany, Europe and Asia in order to enable them to build their own fabrication capabilities. Furthermore, there is a strong cooperation with MEMS foundries to transfer MEMS designs developed at Fraunhofer ENAS into a commercial fabrication technology. Hereby, we especially support SMEs in getting access to innovative sensor solutions.
One example for a successful technology transfer is the development of a wide-band acceleration sensor with very small noise, which requires a very high sensitivity for the capacitive detection of narrow deflections. These requirements can only be fulfilled by a large structure height (75 μm) for large seismic mass and a permanent post-process reduction of the electrode gap (compared to the gap size achievable by etching). In the past years, prototypes of these type of sensors designed by Fraunhofer ENAS and fabricated by using its own technology approach have successfully been proven. At present, the design is adapted to the PDK of the MFB MEMS foundry process of X-FAB, which is improving this technology with regard to an increase of the structure height from 30 μm to 75 μm.
Fraunhofer ENAS has developed a process for the gap reduction and permanent fixation of the detection electrodes, which is based on a silicon micro-welding process (figure above). Hereby, it is possible to reduce the electrode gaps from approx. 3 μm to approx. 500 nm, which results in an increase of the sensitivity by factor 36. A special electrode configuration for a wafer prober and the defined initiation of current pulses for welding enable an effective processing of this sophisticated method on wafer-level. This micro welding technology has been transferred from the Fraunhofer ENAS lab to our research partner EDC Electronic Design Chemnitz GmbH, which develops the sensor electronics (ASIC). Furthermore, EDC will be the commercial provider for this sensor system.