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High Temperature Microelectromechanical Systems Using Piezoelectric Aluminum Nitride
Keywords: MEMS, aluminum nitride, silicon carbide
We report on the efforts at Sandia National Laboratories to develop high temperature capable microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS transducers are pervasive in today’s culture, with examples found in cell phones, automobiles, gaming consoles, and televisions. There is a currently a need for MEMS transducers that can operate in more harsh environments, such as automobile engines, gas turbines, nuclear and coal power plants, and petroleum and geothermal well drilling. Our development focuses on the coupling of silicon carbide (SiC) and aluminum nitride (AlN) thin films on SiC wafers to form a MEMS materials set capable of temperatures beyond 1000°C. SiC is recognized as a promising material for high temperature capable MEMS transducers and electronics because it has the highest mechanical strength of semiconductors with the exception of diamond and its upper temperature limit exceeds 2500°C, where it sublimates rather than melts. Most transduction schemes in SiC are focused on measuring changes in capacitance or resistance, which require biasing or modulation schemes that can withstand elevated temperatures. Instead, we are coupling temperature hardened, micro-scale SiC mechanical components with piezoelectric AlN thin films. AlN is a non-ferroelectric piezoelectric material, enabling piezoelectric transduction at temperatures exceeding 1000°C. AlN is a favorable MEMS material due to its high thermal, electrical, and mechanical strength. It is also closely matched to SiC for coefficient of thermal expansion.
Benjamin A. Griffin, Senior Member of Technical Staff
Sandia National Laboratories
Albuquerque, NM

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