By Chenzhong Shao (D3)
The 31st MEMS conference was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, from January 21st to 25th, 2018. Flying from Sendai to Belfast was not an easy task for me. Due to lack of experience, I booked 3 aircrafts which are from Sendai to Seoul, from Seoul to London and from London to Belfast. Among them, the flight from Seoul to London took 12 hours. Staying in a plane for such a long time made me feel very uncomfortable. Fortunately, in-flight meals were delicious.
The place I lived in Belfast was an apartment booked through Airbnb. When I arrived in Belfast at 9am January 21st, the hospitable host came to pick me up, showed me around and let me check in 5 hours before the schedule. After sleeping several hours, I had to get up to go to the conference location for completing my volunteer assignments in the evening to receive the Student Travel Support provided by the Transducer Research Foundation. My assignment was checking badges in Welcome Reception. My partner in the assignment came from the laboratory in which Hayasaka-san is studying, which was such a coincidence. After the assignment, I went back to the apartment immediately, but jet lag made it difficult for me to fall asleep.
Welcome Reception held in Belfast City Hall
In January 22nd, the presentation part of the 31st MEMS conference started. The conference was held in the Belfast Waterfront which was voted the second best conference centre in the world in the Apex Awards in 2002. I spent most of my time in this nice building during the next 3 and half days, and learned a lot, not only the specific knowledge, but also the way how the top researchers in the field make their presentation. This conference greatly broadened my horizons.
Belfast Waterfront （the left bottom and the right pictures are provided by Prof. Yutaka Nonomura）
In this conference, Prof. Shuji Tanaka was announced to be elected to IEEE fellow. Congratulations!
Announcement (this picture is provided by Prof. Yutaka Nonomura who has a very nice camera)
On the evening of January 24th, we had a Conference Banquet in the Titanic Belfast. Belfast city is famous for building the RMS Titanic ship. The Titanic Belfast tells the stories of the ill-fated Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912. However, at that time, I was very sleepy and cannot enjoy the banquet. Such a pity.
Conference Banquet in Titanic Belfast
During the conference, I also walked around near the conference location. Belfast is a very compact city which you can traveled around on foot. The host of my apartment likes this city very much, so do I. This city is perfect for running, and it is really dark before 8am and after 4pm in winter.
After 5 days' stay in Belfast, I had to say goodbye to this beautiful and peaceful city. Joining this conference was a wonderful journey and experience for me. I will come back to this city in a summer.
MEMS has evolved over three decades meanwhile, starting from the automotive field, via applications in the consumer electronics area and the Internet-of-Things, and most recently into medical and molecular diagnostic applications .
In the consumer electronics area, I listened to a presentation in which a new type of switchable liquid shutter was proposed for the security and design of mobile devices . The operation of the shutter is achieved by shifting an opaque liquid (conductive) and a transparent ambient liquid (insulating), based on electrowetting-on-dielectric (EWOD) actuation. In this device, patterned ITO was used as electrodes. They used Parylene-C and Cytop as the insulating layer and the hydrophobic layer, respectively. PMMA spacers were used to form the liquid chamber, and the periphery of the chamber was sealed using UV-curing resin for hermetic packaging. The response time of the liquid shutter is found to be 600 ms and 350 ms for opening and closing the shutter, respectively at 70 Vrms. The operation of the liquid shutter mounted on a smartphone was successfully demonstrated, as a proof of concept.
As for the medical diagnostic application, I listened to a presentation about an innovative integrated microfluidic platform which allows an ultra-rapid detection of mycotoxins . The simultaneous detection of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), deoxynivalenol (DON) and ochratoxin A (OTA), within their respective regulatory limits is achieved in a single step within 60 s, by combining an array of thin-film photosensors (a-Si:H photodiode) and a disposable microfluidic device. The microfluidic devices were fabricated using standard PDMS mold replication techniques. This platform can potentially be the basis of portable tools allowing routine and cost-effective on-site screening of mycotoxin contamination by non-specialized personnel.
Microdroplet-based systems provide low-cost and high-throughput biological assays or medical diagnosis. The speaker of a presentation demonstrated, for the first time, microdroplet generation, transport and merging inside a synthetic microfluidic paper (SMP) substrate consisting of a three-dimensional porous matrix . The free-standing SMP was fabricated in an Off-Stoichiometry-Thiol-Ene (OSTE) polymer. Slanted and interlocked micropillar structures in SMP were formed in the OSTE by 4-directional lithography by reflecting vertically collimated UV light to angles of 60° using 4 aluminum mirrors. This work introduces a new platform for the microfluidic generation and manipulation of droplets in paper.
Today MEMS innovation happens mainly on the system and product level . In this conference, I found some technology innovation in the consumer electronics area and in the medical diagnostic application which are away from classical silicon MEMS sensors.
 F. Laermer, MEMS, pp. 237-240, 2018.
 J. Lee et al., MEMS, pp. 14-16, 2018.
 R. R. G. Soares et al., MEMS, pp. 6-9, 2018.
 H. Yasuga et al., MEMS, pp. 269-271, 2018.