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Home > Tech Reiews > Emerging Technology Report
Emerging Technology Report #32: November 20, 2002

PowerMEMS 2002: Conference Summary

November 12-13, 2002 Tsukuba, JAPAN

Global Emerging Technology Institute

The purpose of PowerMEMS 2002 was to bring together some of the world's leading researchers that are devoted to developing new types of power sources based on the use of MEMS. This includes research into the use of novel new materials or different applications for existing ones, new types of engines and structural designs relating to packaging, among others. Fuel cell development is being conducted by a number of companies in varied industries. This development comes in big and small sizes.

In Japan, large fuel cell development is a primary focus of R&D for the automobile industry. Recently Toyota Motor announced that it would start to lease fuel cell cars (FCHV; Fuel-Cell Hybrid Vehicle) to government entities in Japan, becoming the first automaker to launch a fuel cell vehicle in any market. It will also market the vehicle in the U.S. on a trial basis and has been the world's first fuel-cell vehicle to be certified for commercial use in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Japanese electronic makers and their suppliers have been working on the development of ultra-small fuel cell development in order to expand the markets of existing key commercial markets like, for example, wireless. The success of advanced next-generation wireless applications and advanced medical devices that require an on-board power supply in the market place will depend a great deal on more sophisticated end-user hardware that will in turn require longer-lasting power sources.

PowerMEMS 2002 sought to bring together the world's leading researchers in the field in order to update the nearly 150 corporate executives, academic researchers and government officials who were in attendance.

PowerMEMS 2002 Tour

The co-organizers of PowerMEMS 2002, the Japanese Advanced Industrial Science & Technology Office (AIST) of the Ministry of Economy, International Trade and Industry (METI) and GETI sponsored a visit to several research facilities in Tsukuba Science City, located one hour outside of Tokyo. A number of national research facilities are maintained there, including one of the world's largest and most advanced clean rooms (see below). Attendees of the tour were first briefed on the MIRAI project.

MIRAI, the Millennium Research for Advanced Information Technology R&D project involves a focus on next-generation semiconductor technology by keeping a strong competency in precompetitive technology development. MIRAI brings together researchers from industry, government and academia in Japan and from around the world for high-level joint R&D project work. MIRAI is conducted by a virtual organization of 74 researchers from 25 companies and 62 researchers from AIST/ASRC in cooperation with 20 university laboratories. MIRAI brings together 14 device makers, 11 equipment makers, and 20 university labs, all focusing on 5 main theme areas: high-k gate stack technology, Low-k/Cu interconnect modules, new transistors/strained Si CMOS, new circuits and system technology and metrology/inspection for lithography.

The main site for research is the new Tsukuba AIST Super-Clean Room, which was visited by attendees and has been in operation for only a little more than 8 months. MIRAI is one of three projects being incubated in the super clean room. The others include ASUKA (more commercialization focused) with the largest clean room space, Y70b/5 year project, and the HALCA project (Y3.1b/FY 2000). There are over 400 people working on all of the above. The MIRAI project will be conducted from 2001-2007 and will focus primarily on the development of advanced semiconductor technology for 65 to 45nm node in order to boost the competitiveness of the semiconductor industry. The visitors were informed by MIRAI representatives that technology development beyond 65nm node will only be achievable by introducing new materials and new device structures and that they are very committed to developing new SoC (system-on-chip) technologies. The key is bringing together device engineers, tool designers and material suppliers.

Attendees also visited the Green Energy Laboratory at AIST to be briefed by Tatsuhiro Okada, Senior Researcher. Dr. Okada briefed the attendees on the function of the lab, which is to be mainly devoted to new materials development and basic studies of polymer electrolyte fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells. The lab is striving to develop novel catalysts based on organic metal complexes that are easily designed and synthesized, the durability of fuel cells. In regard to work relating to power sources for portable devices, the lab is conducting research in the area of micro-tubular direct methanol fuel cells but is still in the early stages of its research. However, a novel type of fuel cell was developed in 2000 using tubular polymer electrolytes.

PowerMEMS 2002
International Workshop on Power MEMS
November 12-13 Proceedings Summary

PowerMEMS 2002 started off with opening remarks by Professor Masayoshi Esashi of Tohoku University, one of Japan's leading experts in the MEMS field. He was followed by regional presentation overviews made after remarks provided by the session chair, Miwako Waga of GETI.

The first speaker discussed micro energy system research activities in China. Most research in (mainland) China is being conducted in the area of micro thrusters for micro satellite applications. This is related to the desire to miniaturize commercial communication and military satellites. Different types of micro-thrusters are being developed, including electro-heating and electrostatic micro thrusters. In Hong Kong, where the funding schemes are independent from the mainland, there is ongoing research in the micro energy transducer area. The use of these transducers would replace existing conventional electric or solar energy, and would be applicable to powering a range of portable devices. This includes using such transducers (in the size of AA batteries) to power advanced mobile wireless devices. In Japan, researcher from Tohoku University informed the attendees that a great deal of research has been devoted to micro-machined gas turbines, micro-fuel cells, micro-fuel reformers, micro-thrusters and various heat-resistive ceramic micro-machining technologies. The presenters for the Japan session emphasized the need for the development of new materials and components not found in conventional MEMs. Like in Japan, Korean research is very interested in the development of ultra-small fuel cells for use in portable electronic devices. The idea of applying MEMs technology to develop "Fuel Cell on Chip" technology is being closely studied. The representative from Samsung Institute of Technology also mentioned that many industry, government and academic research centers in Korea are starting to look seriously into the commercial and advanced research opportunities in the fuel cell area. It can be said that there is a greater push in both Japan and Korea to commercialize power MEMs since both countries maintain cutting edge technology industries that are leaders in key sectors that are dependent on further advances in fuel cell technology in order to continue to grow existing lucrative markets. Singapore is devoting resources to developing micro-power generators based on gas turbine engines. Micro power generation research in Taiwan will become a key area of a national nanotechnology initiative to be initiated in January 2003. This program, bolstered initially by $90m in funding, will enable Taiwan to attain "academic excellence" and "nanotechnology industrialization" through advancements in platform technology and applied technology. Platform technology includes materials characterization and analysis, fabrication techniques, and modeling/simulation. The applied technology is to be coupled with industrial developments such as energy application, display materials and systems, information and communication, electronic devices, biotechnology and traditional industries. The success of the Taiwanese electronics industry has led to Taiwan being very active in power related research. Research projects include Lithium battery, super capacitor and micro-fuel cells. Research in Taiwan is commercially driven and focuses on producing results for its electronics industry, as is the case in Korea in Japan.

It was pointed out during the discuss concerning the U.S. that "micro-power generators" (MPGs) with significantly higher energy densities than batteries will be the key components in the ultimate miniaturization and integration of stand-alone, self-contained, wireless micro sensors and micro actuators that can be deployed remotely and operated autonomously. The U.S. Government, through the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has strongly promoted the use of MEMS technology in developing power generation technologies. The DARPA program will continue to support work in micro combustion engines, thermoelectric generators, micro hydrogen fuel cells and hydrocarbon fuel reformers. It also plans to explore direct-methanol micro fuel cells, solid-oxide fuel cells, innovative thermal engines, and radioisotope-based electric generators. The main goal is to develop and demonstrate a stand alone, self-sustained micro power generation unit that can be integrated with micro sensors and actuators with wireless communications capabilities. At the university level, advanced research on chip-based gas turbine generators and turbo generators is being conducted at MIT. At the University of California, the MEMS Rotary Engine Power System (REPS) project's objective is to develop a liquid hydrocarbon fueled portable power system using a rotary (Wankel) engine as the power source. The ultimate goal of the project is a power system capable of producing 10- 100 mW of electrical power using a rotary engine, which was selected for development as the basis of a MEMS scale power generation system. There were a series of talks focusing on micro-machined gas turbine generators and turbines.

The final day of PowerMEMS focused on discussions concerning micro fuel cells, space applications and systems support and ended with a stimulating panel discussion on the potential and challenges of micro power generation technology. During the panel discussion, experts agreed that the potential for advances in fuel cell development based on MEMS technology would need to be investigated further by continued basic and applied research. Clearly, the commercial demand exists for smaller, more efficient and longer lasting power sources but these must be able to, at the very least, compliment or enable existing power sources in the market place. This would be in lieu of totally replacing existing technologies such as batteries, which may take some time absent breakthroughs in key areas such as in materials and packaging. It was clear that more economic resources will be earmarked to develop emerging technologies in the area since existing power sources will have trouble meeting the demands of next-generation electronic devices, from advanced cell phones to humanoid robots.

Thank You

GETI would like to thank the following individuals and groups for their participation, support and contribution to the success of PowerMEMS 2002.


Global Emerging Technology Institute
Tohoku University
Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology
Japan Industrial Technology Association

International Advisory Committee

Prof. C.K. Lee, National Taiwan University, Taiwan ROC
Dr. Loke Chong Lee, Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, Singapore
Dr. Suk Han Lee, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Korea
Prof. Brett Pokines, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA
Prof. William C. Tang, University of California, Irvine, USA

Technical Program Committee

Prof. Masayoshi Esashi, Tohoku University
Dr. Ryutaro Maeda, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Prof. Brett Pokines, Rochester Institute of Technology
Louis Ross, Global Emerging Technology Institute
Dr. Shuji Tanaka, Tohoku University
Miwako Waga, Global Emerging Technology Institute

Conference Supporters

U.S. Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development, Air Force Office of Scientific Research
Japan Society of Professional Engineers (JSPE)- MEMS Packaging Committee; Microforming Committee
The Japan Society for Precision Engineering (JIEP)-MEMS Packaging Committee;
Microfabrication and Assembling Committee

Suss Microtec

PowerMEMS Speakers

Prof. Masayoshi Esashi, Tohoku University
Wen J. Li, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shuji Tanaka, Tohoku University
Suk Han Lee, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Korea
SP Lim, National University of Singapore
Alex Yu-Min Peng, Materials Research Laboratories, ITRI, Taiwan
William C. Tang, University of California, Irvine
Alan Epstein, MIT
Carlos-Fernandez-Pello, University of California
Kousuke Isomura, Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, Japan
Eito Matsuo, University of Tokyo
Dae-Eun Park, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Christopher Hebling, Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Systems, Germany
Jeffrey D. Morse, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Bai Xu, Albany Nanotech
SH Chan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
JP Fleurial, Jet Propulsion/California Institute of Technology
Johan Kohler, Uppsala University, Sweden
Yasuhiko Osaki, Kyushu University, Japan
K. Maruta, Tohoku University
Joe Brown, Suss Microtec

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