The development of MEMS technology has made it possible to fabricate a large number of tiny mechanical sensors of micro or nanometer dimension at low cost. These tiny mechanical sensors are inevitably affected by thermal noise due to their small mass to surface area ratio more seriously than existing macroscopic devices. In this paper, a new sensor concept that uses large arrays of microswitches subjected to thermal noise to sense a wide range of physical parameters is presented. The quantification of the sensor performance has been determined by the statistical states of the microswitch array. Not only does this new method provide a true digital sensor, but it also produces a sensor with additional attractive features such as high resolution and gentle failure characteristics. The new sensors can be described as digital sensors, since they avoid the usual DC/AC conversion. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- measurement theory