Microstaq Mastering Electronic Controls for Fluid-Control Industry

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Microstaq’s revolutionary MEMS valve technology holds great promise for the miniaturization of flow control systems across a number of automotive, biomedical, refrigeration, aeronautical and other flow control opportunities. The company’s silicon chip-based flow control technology leverages proven silicon wafer processing techniques to create a single-structure, ‘solid state’ valve capable of controlling a range of fluids in today’s high-pressure, high-flow rate control environments.

Engineers at Microstaq are betting that the tiny, silicon chip they created to miniaturize and manage the refrigerant in a car’s air-conditioner holds promise for much broader applications in autos of the future. The micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology used in the patented microvalve also shows promise for biotechnology, drug research and development, satellite control and for medical uses.

“This could be the transistor of the fluid-control industry,” says company cofounder and president Steve Booth, referring to the electronics revolution that followed the invention of the transistor.

Microstaq has been successfully testing its micro-sized electro-mechanical valves for fluid control on automotive air conditioners for the past three years at its labs in Bellingham and anticipates production to get underway within two years. Knowing that a typical automobile has 50 valves that need to be opened and closed automatically and regulated closely, and having a number of top technical experts on staff, the company is favorably positioned to develop the micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology for use in auto transmissions, braking systems and other automobile fluidic systems.

Microstaq’s microvalve technology could also be used for active cooling of complex, heat generating electronic systems such as modern microprocessors, he said. “Its portability, low cost, accuracy and small fluid volume requirements also make it ideal for analysis and mixing of pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Microstaq’s microvalve uses MEMS technology and due to its silicon material content its moving parts will not wear out. A tiny silicon wafer the size of a button controls the flow of liquids, mists and gases at high pressures, replacing a traditional valve in the air conditioning system that is larger than a spark plug. Its lighter weight and smaller size is expected to increase fuel economy and reduce power consumption in every car, truck and SUV that uses it.

Booth and Microstaq cofounder Jeff Chance believe that Microstaq’s tiny electronic chip has the potential to revolutionize automotive flow control designs and reduce auto emissions.

“Even a half-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel efficiency translates into saving hundreds of thousands of metric tons of auto emissions every year,” said Booth, also president of the company.

Microstaq’s proprietary, pressure-balanced valve design uses advanced silicon wafer processing technologies to fabricate a high-pressure, high flow capable microvalve as compared to membrane or orifice-type microvalve designs. The Microstaq valve is designed to operate in the harsh temperature and pressure environments typical to many automotive flow control systems.

“There is great potential for this microvalve to be on every car in the world,” said Chance, executive vice president and COO. “Down the road, this technology could be used for other systems such as for biotechnology, medical uses, drug research and development, satellite control, gas flow, even bicycle suspensions.”

Microstaq’s valve technology holds such great promise that the company received a $2 million federal grant in 2001 from the National Institute of Standards Technology’s Advanced Technology Program to develop its unique microvalve for a car’s air conditioner.

About Microstaq:

Microstaq (http://www.microstaq.com) is a privately held company founded in 2000 to bring MEMS technology to the flow control world of automotive systems. Microstaq designs, develops and manufactures high-performance MEMS silicon valve systems capable of operating in normal to extreme flow control environments. Cofounders Steve Booth and Jeff Chance were business development and sales managers in the automotive air-conditioning and engine cooling industry before founding the company to address flow control opportunities in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries. Formerly known as Alumina Micro, the company moved to Bellingham in 2002.

Microstaq recognizes the benefits of business partnerships to efficiently market its valve technology and seeks partnerships that will successfully market its flow control technology into promising business sectors.


Jeff Chance

Executive Vice President

360-734-8220 x102


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