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IEEE Santa Clara Valley
Robotics & Automation Society (SCV/OEB/SF)

Meeting Archives

May 2010:
Thursday May 6, 2010

Date and Time

6:45pm: Networking
7:00pm: Presentation
8:00pm: Adjourn


Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley (directions:




Next Generation MEMS Inertial Sensors:
Discussion of HP’s new MEMS inertial sensor technology with greatly increased performance.


Dr. Peter G. Hartwell, HP Labs


MEMS inertial sensors have been around for more than 25 years, from the first prototypes developed in universities to initial product offerings. While the goal has always been enabling inertial navigation in mobile devices with high performance accelerometers and gyroscopes, MEMS inertial sensors saw their first commercial success as collision detectors in vehicle airbag systems. Fast-forward 20 years. Airbags that started on high-end cars are now available on every vehicle. The use of inertial sensors in cars has expanded into all manner of vehicle dynamics. Improvements in the cost, size and power of current sensors, along with expansion of the vendor base, have allowed MEMS sensors to spill over into consumer electronics such as game controllers and smartphones. Their performance, however, remains largely unchanged and MEMS gyroscopes have only recently come to market in volume. I will examine why MEMS inertial sensors have failed to live up to their initial promise, and to propose a different approach that could jump-start advancements. MEMS fabrication technologies, such as high-aspect-ratio etching, wafer bonding, and packaging, have all seen dramatic improvements from the first university prototypes. Hewlett-Packard has applied 25-plus years of nanofabrication experience creating MEMS inkjet printheads to create a new generation of MEMS inertial sensors. I will highlight performance goals now within reach and the application space the new sensors enable.


Dr. Peter G. Hartwell is currently a senior researcher at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, California. As a member of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab, he is the lead of the Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) team developing a broad sensing system to bring environmental awareness to information technology infrastructure. CeNSE was selected one of 20 “World Changing Ideas” in the December 2009 issue of Scientific American. Peter has extensive experience in commercializing silicon MEMS products, working on advanced sensors and actuators, and specializes in MEMS testing techniques. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1992 with a B.S.E in Materials Science and from Cornell University in 1999 with a Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering. He did brief post doctoral work at HP Labs before joining the staff in 2000. His work at HP has been documented in numerous technical papers, patents, and articles in publications such as The New York Times, Forbes, IEEE Spectrum, and EETimes.

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