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In-Situ Wafer-Level Polarization of Electret Films in MEMS Acoustic Sensor Arrays
Keywords: Electret, ElectroActive Polymer, Ultrasonic Sensor
MEMS-based electret and polymer piezoelectric transduction techniques have been reported for both acoustic sensors and energy harvesters. Common techniques employed in MEMS polymer polarization include corona discharge and backlighted thyratron. This paper reports a method for post-fabrication in-situ polarization of polymer films embedded within the MEMS device itself. The method utilizes microplasma discharges with self-aligned charging grids integrated within the device to charge fluoropolymer films in a fashion similar to the common corona discharge technique. This in-situ approach enables the integration of uncharged polymer films into MEMS and subsequent post-fabrication and post-packaging polarization, simultaneously enabling the formation of buried or encapsulated electrets as well as eliminating the need to restrict fabrication and packaging processes that might otherwise discharge pre-charged materials. CYTOP, a thermoplastic fluoropolymer encapsulant for electronics, is used as a polymer electret in the current process because it can be spin-cast, has a high resistivity, and is easily etched in oxygen plasma. A microscale charging grid structure is then fabricated and suspended a short distance above the polymer film. After fabrication of the charging grid, standard microfabrication steps are performed to build a single-chip array of MEMS capacitive acoustic sensors designed to capture and analyze waveforms from impacts. After completing the entire fabrication and packaging flow, the polarization process is performed. When energized by a high voltage, the sharp metal edges of the charging grid lead to high dielectric fields that ionize the air in the gap and force electric charge onto the polymer surface. Final sensor arrays have been demonstrated and applied in the classification of acoustic stress pulses generated during impacts of various materials.
Michael Kranz, Director R&D
Stanley Associates
Huntsville, AL

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