New miniature smart pump developed for use in smartphone-based gas sensors

Engineering

Researchers have developed the world's smallest micromembrane pump for use in the creation of smartphone-based gas sensors.

A team from Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have created a micro-diaphragm pump measuring only 25 sq mm, for delivering ambient air to gas sensors built into mobile devices.

“Scientists have developed a miniaturised micromembrane pump that could be used to help prevent heavy exposure to particulate matter.“

It utilises a piezoelectric effect to convert an applied electrical field into mechanical strain, thereby generating pressure in the pump chamber. Alternating the voltage helps move the silicon membrane up or down to circulate air.

This helps the sensor respond quickly and provide accurate measurements, allowing it to detect particulate matter in the air that might harm the heart and lungs and thereby prevent the risk of heavy exposure.

Additionally, the device could be used to create medical patches that can deliver tiny amounts of hormone or painkiller, as an implant to help regulate pressure within the eye to treat glaucoma, or to supply machines with precise doses of lubricant.

Dr Martin Richter, department head of micro-dosing systems at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Microsystems and Solid State Technologies EMFT in Munich, said: "Our goal is to reduce the size of the pump to ten sq mm to make its mass production profitable. We are well on track to achieving this."

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