About BSAC


The Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center (BSAC) began in 1986 as a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC). BSAC was organized as an NSF Center to develop a science, engineering, and technology base for microsensors, microactuators, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Here, the repeated appearance of the word "micro" underlies a fundamental tenet in the BSAC vision: That miniaturization in any physical domain, be it electrical, mechanical, chemical, or biological, begets compelling performance benefits. In 1998, BSAC expanded to a multi-campus NSF I/UCRC with the addition of UC Davis, a major campus of the University of California 60 miles from UC Berkeley. BSAC became a graduated NSF I/UCRC center in 2008, after which it no longer received NSF funding but rather continues entirely under industry member support.

From the beginning, BSAC has focused on providing Industrial Member companies early pre-commercial and pre-publication access to important research results on a highly leveraged basis. This leverage derives from a funding model in which less than 15% of BSAC operating funds are provided from member fees, but Industrial Members still get access to all research results of the Center. Industrial Member relationships with faculty, graduates, and students create unique opportunities for furtherance of our technology transfer goals.

BSAC includes a multi-disciplinary research team of 100+ graduate students and post-doctoral researchers led by more than ten BSAC Directors from the engineering faculties of electrical, mechanical, and bio engineering at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. BSAC Directors oversee nearly 100 projects with the cooperation, collaboration, and guidance of 20+ industrial member companies and government laboratories from UC Berkeley and Davis.  BSAC utilizes research laboratories throughout the engineering campuses at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, including intensive use of the UC Berkeley Marvell Nanofabrication facility (NanoLab).

Major thrust areas of research at BSAC include

  • Wireless Communication and RF Devices
  • Physical Sensors, Actuators, Devices, Circuits, and MicroRobotics
  • Packaging, Processes, Materials and Microassembly for MEMS
  • Power Generation and Conversion
  • BioMEMS, Bio and Biometric Sensors
  • MicroFluidics
  • Optical MEMS and MicroPhotonics
  • Timing and Frequency Control
  • Nano Structures and Electro-Mechanical-Bio Interfaces
  • Integrated Microsystems

BSAC research exploits the multidisciplinary competencies and visions of the internationally recognized top rank faculty at UC Berkeley and Davis. It is hard to imagine such a team being brought together in any other way.


Starting with the first demonstration of silicon surface micromachining, BSAC Researchers pioneered the development of mechanical and electrical structures utilizing lithography and processing capabilities of the semiconductor industry. Over the years many firsts, milestones, and benchmarks from BSAC research have enabled and led to the expansion of the MEMS approach into a wealth of disparate applications in each of the thrust areas above.

  • Surface Micromachining
  • Gyro Inertial Sensors and Accelerometers
  • MEMS-Based Timing and Frequency Control
  • Fully Integrated Modular MEMS-Transistor Systems
  • Thin-Film MEMS Poly-Si, Silicon Nitride, Silicon Carbide
  • Lamb Wave Acoustic Sensors
  • Acoustic Wave Micropumps and Mixers
  • Comb-Driven MEMS Actuators
  • Pin-Jointed Self-Assembled Micromechanical Structures                                                              
  • Surface-Micromachined Gears, Cranks and Springs
  • Dimpled Structures for Friction Reduction
  • MEMS Micro-Vibromotors
  • Internal Combustion Silicon-Based Rotary Micromotor
  • Hinged, Fold-Out Micromachined Out-of-plane Structures
  • Anti-Stiction Elements and Surface Treatments
  • X–and Y-Rastered Real-Time Projected Display System
  • RF mechanical resonators and relays
  • Multi-level PolySi Micromechanics w/ On-Chip Activation
  • Folded-mirror Fiber-Optic Microphotonic Systems
  • MEMS Microfluidic Mixing/Dispensing System
  • MEMS Based Free-Space Optics
  • Piezioelectric MEMS Silicon-Diaphragm Microphone                                          
  • MEMS-Scanned Barcode Reader
  • Microfluidic Host-Fueled Glucose Microbial Power Cell
  • Micromechanical RF Filters
  • MEMS-Based Power Converters
  • Neural Dust
  • Acoustic Fingerprint Sensors
  • Integrated wireless microwatt transceiver
  • Wireless communicating microsensors
  • Tunable micro capacitors and inductors
  • Biosensors and biomanipulators
  • Fluidic microvalves, mixers and micropumps
  • Adaptive optical micromirror arrays
  • Rotary engine and microbial power systems,
  • MEMS-based steered free-air laser communication system
  • Miniaturized Nano Mechanically Regulated Rubidium atomic clock
  • Monolithic self-propelled microbotics
  • Electrical, Mechanical and Bio-Interfaces and structures for Nano Technology
  • Processes for demonstration and eventual manufacture of many of these

... and the list continues.