MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) have the versatility to solve specialized problems, and the demonstration of that versatility continues at Sandia National Laboratories. Researchers there have devised an advanced gas-sampling procedure using picoliters of gas to check whether the atmosphere inside a MEMS device is pure.
A small commercial valve crushes a tiny object—the MEMS chip under investigation—and feeds the released gases to a custom-built intake manifold. Because the test mechanism requires only picoliters of gas, it can re-evaluate dozens of times, using bursts of puffs of gas that it receives. This repetition increases the final test's validity due to the repeated sampling and testing during a 20-minute period, compared with the uncertain validity of a single test and result.