Specialty Markets

MEMS, FOS Benefit Medical Apps

November 1, 2005 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors

MEMS technology has done much to advance medical device design. Just recently, the U.S. Patent Office granted Integrated Sensing Systems, Inc. (ISSYS, www.mems-issys.com) a utility patent, "Method of fabricating a micromachined tube for fluid flow," that describes a new method of forming micromachined tubes. ISSYS uses this technique to produce drug infusion devices, microneedles, flow and fuel-cell sensors, and density meters. In the drug infusion application, the device promises to help reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths and serious injuries that occur each year due to medication delivery errors. The micromachined ISSYS flow sensor can detect the correct drug dose, dose rate, volume, and concentration and will indicate if the infusion line is blocked or has an air bubble in it.

According to Dr. Nader Najafi, ISSYS President and CEO, the new technology "offers a way to improve the way that micromachined tubes and fluidic sensors can be fabricated." It is already being used in industrial and medical devices, he says, and will "help revolutionize the way that drugs are delivered to patients."

According to a report from Business Communications Co., Inc., (www.bccresearch.com), medical applications are also poised to benefit from fiber-optic sensors.

The report, RG-116N Fiber Optic Sensors, says the story for FOS is one of tremendous potential, and the sensors' influence remains unmet except in the telecommunications market. FOS technology, which can measure temperature, pressure, humidity, acceleration and strain, is at a crossroads.

The market is divided into the two broadest categories of sensors, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic sensors are used in telecommunications to monitor the status and performance of the optical fibers within a network. This market segment is forecast to increase by 4.1% until 2011, when it will be $274.4 million.

The intrinsic sensor market is forecast to grow at 4% to $97.4 million by 2011. But it is in this category that the greatest opportunity for new market entrants exists. The largest application segment for intrinsic sensors is military applications, which tend to be specialized and often one-of-a-kind projects that seldom lead to mainstream market success. But particular promise exists in the medical market as FOS offers the promise of better, less invasive medical treatment. Unfortunately, the medical market highlights many of the challenges yet remaining for FOS, and current revenues are therefore minimal.

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