Pressure sensors to become Top MEMS device by 2014

Thanks to their relatively high prices and expanding use in a host of automotive, medical and industrial applications, pressure sensors will become the leading microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) device by 2014, according to IHS iSuppli.

Driven by a strong automotive industry recovery after the recession, pressure sensors last year generated $1.22 billion in revenue, up 26 percent from 2009, to reach second place in terms of revenue among all MEMS devices. Growth this year will be more modest at 6.6 percent, but a double-digit expansion is predicted for 2012. By 2014, revenue for MEMS pressure sensors will amount to $1.85 billion, as shown in the figure below.

“Pressure sensors will become the top MEMS device in revenue in three years’ time as a result of steady market expansion,” said Richard Dixon, Ph.D., senior analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. “The rapid growth of pressure sensors means that these devices will trump even the ubiquitous accelerometers and gyroscopes so popular now in the MEMS space.”

The average price of MEMS pressure sensors varies, depending on the level of compensation and calibration of the die, as well as the type of packaging. Pricing could range from several dollars to tens of dollars for high-value industrial and medical uses, and climb to hundreds of dollars for the most specialized applications, such as aircraft hydraulics or air data measurements—including any combination of industrial use in harsh media, temperature and pressure, Dixon noted.

MEMS pressure sensors find heavy use in assorted applications

A MEMS pressure sensor is a membrane element that deflects under pressure. The deflection can be measured by either a Wheatstone bridge arrangement—piezoresistive-type sensing—or by a change in the distance between two plates via capacitive sensing. Both approaches are popular, with the piezoresistive type found, for example, on tire-pressure monitoring systems.

The automotive sector remains in 2011 the biggest area for MEMS pressure sensors, claiming 72 percent share in revenue, followed by medical electronics at 11 percent and the industrial segment at 10 percent. The remaining 6 percent of the market is split between consumer electronics on the one hand, and military-aerospace on the other.

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