Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) are the larger cousin of Nanoelectromechanical Systems (NEMS) and cover devices that generally range in size from a micrometer (a millionth of a meter) to a millimeter (thousandth of a meter). Currently, MEMS are used in applications relating to inkjet printers, accelerometers, MEMS gyroscopes, pressure sensors, optical switching and displays (the DMD chip in a projector based on DLP technology has several hundred thousand micromirrors on the surface).
Blaise Mouttet, who is a Patent Analyst, a former examiner, and author of TinyTechIP Blog, conducted a review of 2,642 patents related to MEMS and organized the patents based on breadth. After analyzing the patent claims, Blaise compiled the following list, titled "Top Ten Broadest US Patents for Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)":
1. US Patent 6,481,570 - "Packaging atmosphere and method of packaging a MEMS device," priority Sept. 29, 2000
Claim 1 - "A packaging atmosphere packaging a MEMS device, the packaging atmosphere selected to have a thermal conductivity exceeding the thermal conductivity of air."
2. US Patent 6,441,405 - "Micro-mechanical elements," priority June 4, 1998
Claim 1 - "A micro-mechanical element comprising: a discrete switching element; and a switching means for applying force to the switching element to move the switching element between two stable positions. "3. US Patent 6,904,191 - "MXN cantilever beam optical waveguide switch," priority March 19, 2003
Claim 1 - "A micro-electro-mechanical system optical switch, comprising: a cantilever beam optical switch associated with a plurality of optical waveguides formed on a flexible cantilever beam for switching optical states. "4. US Patent 6,004,912 - "Vapor phase low molecular weight lubricants," priority June 5, 1998
Claim 1 - "A method of lubricating a micro machine comprising the step of applying a lubricant to the micro machine wherein the lubricant is a compound having a permanent electric dipole moment."
5. US Patent 6,433,411 - "Packaging micromechanical devices," priority May 22, 2000
Claim 1 - "A micro-electronic machined mechanical (MEMS) assembly comprising a silicon chamber having a silicon base and silicon sidewalls, and a MEMS device mounted on the silicon base within the silicon chamber."6. US Patent 6,707,351 - "Tunable MEMS resonator and method for tuning," priority March 27, 2002
Claim 1 - "A microelectromechanical resonator comprising: a microelectromechanical resonant structure characterized by a mass and one or more selectively doped regions; a vaporizable material for altering the mass of the resonant structure."7. US Patent 7,019,955 - "MEMS digital-to-acoustic transducer with error cancellation ," priority Sept. 13, 1999
Claim 1 - "An acoustic transducer, comprising: a substrate; a micromachined mesh fabricated on said substrate; a layer of material sealing said mesh to form a flexible diaphragm; and electronics connected to said diaphragm."
8. US Patent 7,053,736 - "Microelectromechanical device having an active opening switch," priority Sept. 30, 2002
Claim 1 - "A microelectromechanical device, comprising a beam configured to apply an opening force on a closed switch, wherein the opening force is substantially independent of a force stored in the closed switch."9. US Patent 6,445,006 - "Microelectronic and microelectromechanical devices comprising carbon nanotube components, and methods of making same ," priority July 27, 1999
Claim 1 - " A microelectronic or microelectromechanical device, comprising: a substrate, wherein the substrate includes an oxide layer and an etch stop layer for the oxide layer; and a fiber formed of a carbon-containing material."10. US Patent 7,114,397 - "Microelectromechanical system pressure sensor and method for making and using", priority March 12, 2004
Claim 1 - "An apparatus, comprising: a substrate defining a plane; a first conducting plate substantially normal to the substrate; and a second conducting plate substantially normal to the substrate and deformable in response to a pressure."
See Blaise's post here.