Scientists at Xerox Corporation are conducting advanced research into micro-opto-electromechanical systems (MOEMS), or microscopic machines on a chip, to find ways of using the devices to boost performance, speed and cost-efficiency of Xerox products. A futuristic vision for decades, MEMS is now emerging from the shadow of microelectronics to be a field all its own. Xerox, which has spent the last several years miniaturizing its functionality into smaller and smaller spaces, is an industry leader in advancing the development of silicon-based MEMS.
The new optical switch technology builds on a broadly enabling MOEMS fabrication platform developed under a grant provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in its Advanced Technology Program. Xerox is the lead partner in the Optical MEMS Manufacturing Consortium. Other partners include Palo Alto Research Center, a subsidiary of Xerox; Corning IntelliSense, a MEMS foundry and software company; Microscan, a data acquisition firm; and Coventor, a MEMS software company. They are tasked with developing a manufacturing process for Optical MEMS, which can be used broadly.
In addition, Xerox is a founding partner in New York State's recently announced Center for Excellence in Microsystems and Photonics, an advanced research and manufacturing facility that will help speed the transformation of this research into reality.
At Xerox, MEMS research began in 1993 and Optical MEMS in 1998. Using Optical MEMS, Xerox is working to improve color image quality during the color reproduction process. Optical MEMS devices could eventually eliminate the need for high-cost precision manufacturing of components that stabilize movement in Xerox photoreceptor belts.
For the first time, Xerox researchers have developed, on a single silicon chip, technology that could help route high-capacity fiber optics "the last mile" to small businesses and homes. The technology is drastically smaller and much cheaper than devices currently in use. The Optical MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) switch is integrated with light circuits to route fiber optic signals.