Innovative motion-control user interfaces on consumer electronics and drop detection/protection features in portable systems are helping accelerate the growth of semiconductor devices built with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, according to a new market study from IC Insights Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz. Worldwide sales of MEMS-based semiconductor sensors and actuators are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2007 and 2012, reaching $9.7 billion in five years compared to $4.1 billion in 2007, according to the 2008 Optoelectronics, Sensors, and Discretes (O-S-D) Report.

The study shows that 80% of today's $5 billion semiconductor sensor/actuator market is served by devices built with MEMS technology. In these devices, tiny MEMS structures perform transducer functions for taking measurements or initiating physical actions. Among these devices are pressure sensors, accelerometers, gyroscope chips, solid-state microphones, silicon MEMS oscillators, and a broad range of actuators, such as inkjet nozzles, micro-mirror display devices, and radio-frequency (RF) filters, including surface-acoustic- wave (SAW) components.

Until recently, MEMS-based devices such as accelerometers and pressure sensors had been heavily dependent on the automotive market for growth, but new, high-volume applications in consumer products, cell phones, and other portable systems have significantly increased the potential for sales worldwide, according to the report. Accelerometers are also being used in portable systems to detect freefall and take immediate action to protect hard-disk drives from damage whenever units are dropped.

IC Insights' new report concludes that unit shipments of MEMS-based sensors and actuators will rise at a CAGR of 27% between 2007 and 2012, reaching 4.3 billion devices in five years. In this same period, total sensor/actuator unit shipments are forecast to increase at a CAGR of 23%, with 12.1 billion devices being shipped in 2012 compared to 4.3 billion in 2007. Overall, the sensor/actuator market is expected to reach $11.9 billion, counting all types of technologies. MEMS-based actuators accounted for 54% of the $5.1 billion sensor/actuator market in 2007, according to the O-S-D Report, which breaks down the sizeable actuator category by device types and applications. For more information, visit www.icinsights.com.