Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics

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1.7 Full-System Simulation of Microsystems


MEMS and microfluidic systems are characterized by the presence of multiple energy domains like mechanical, electrical, magnetic, and thermal, as shown in Figure 1.29. These devices are often integrated with components such as electronics, optics, and other micromechanical components to create integrated systems, thereby adding more energy domains and complexity to the system. A generic example of a largely simplified microfluidic system is shown schematically in Figure 1.30. This system is made up of a micropump, a microflow sensor, and an electronic control circuit. The electronic circuit may be used to adjust the pump flowrate so that a constant flow is maintained in a microchannel. The simulation of the complete system requires models for the micropump, the microflow sensor, and the electronic components associated with the control circuit. Another example of an integrated system is the large-scale integration of microfluidic channels on a chip. Quake and colleagues (Thorsen et al., 2002) designed and fabricated high-density microfluidic chips that contain plumbing networks with thousands of micromechanical valves and hundreds of individually addressable chambers (see Figure 1.31). These fluidic devices are analogous to electronic integrated circuits fabricated using large-scale integration. These integrated microfluidic networks are used to construct the microfluidic analogue of a comparator array and a microfluidic memory storage device whose behavior resembles random-access memory.


The design complexity and functionality complexity of microsystems and nanosystems can exceed the complexity of VLSI systems. More than three decades ago, VLSI simulation was considered a formidable task, but today VLSI systems are simulated routinely thanks to the many advances in CAD and simulation tools achieved over that period. It is clear that similar and even greater advances are required in the microsystems field in order to make full-system simulation of microsystems a reality in the near future. This will enable the microsystems community to explore new pathways of discovery and expand the role and influence of microsystems at a rapid rate.

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