MSc thesis project proposal

[2023-24] GaN Accelerometers for Space Exploration

The ongoing space revolution promises the deployment of smaller and lighter satellites with a consequent reduction in production and launch costs. This is expected to result in new applications, as well as a democratization of space by facilitating access to smaller companies and institutions. Miniaturization of satellite parts is an important pillar for the realization of this new paradigm. Inertial sensors, namely accelerometers and gyroscopes, are key components of satellites and spacecrafts. While MEMS inertial sensors based on electrostatic transduction and silicon electronics are promising for miniaturized instrumentation, their performance suffers in radiation-rich environments.

A low cost, unshielded and reliable solution for accelerometers in space is possible by leveraging III-Nitride electronics using piezoelectric transduction, which is less sensitive to electric fields induced by charge accumulation than their electrostatic counterparts. In particular, gallium nitride (GaN) provides versatile characteristics to enable different types of devices on the same chip, including high-electron-mobility transistors, transistor-based sensors, and piezoelectric MEMS. GaN is an excellent candidate for space-grade sensors systems due to its large bandgap (3.4 eV), mechanical durability, and high radiation tolerance.


In this MSc thesis, you will:

Perform a literature review of III-N MEMS accelerometeres, resonators, and strain sensors.

Design and simulate a piezoelectric MEMS accelerometer based on GaN-on-Si wafers (including the buffer region).

Fabricate and characterize piezoelectric properties of GaN-AlN wafers using SAW devices


This is a collaboration between Dr. Karen Dowling and Dr. Tomás Manzaneque.


dr. Karen Dowling

Electronic Instrumentation Group

Department of Microelectronics

Last modified: 2023-01-31