Two piezoresistive (n-polysilicon) strain sensors on a thin Si3N4/SiO2 membrane with improved sensitivity were successfully fabricated by using MEMS technology. The primary difference between the two designs was the number of strips of the polysilicon patterns. For each design, a doped n-polysilicon sensing element was patterned over a thin 3 μm Si3N4/SiO2 membrane. A 1000×1000 μm2 window in the silicon wafer was etched to free the thin membrane from the silicon wafer. The intent of this design was to fabricate a flexible MEMS strain sensor similar in function to a commercial metal foil strain gage. A finite element model of this geometry indicates that strains in the membrane will be higher than strains in the surrounding silicon. The values of nominal resistance of the single strip sensor and the multi-strip sensor were 4.6 and 8.6 kΩ, respectively. To evaluate thermal stability and sensing characteristics, the temperature coefficient of resistance [TCR = (ΔR/R0)/ΔT] and the gage factor [GF = (ΔR/R0)/ε] for each design were evaluated. The sensors were heated on a hot plate to measure the TCR. The sensors were embedded in a vinyl ester epoxy plate to determine the sensor sensitivity. The TCR was 7.5×10-4 and 9.5×10-4/°C for the single strip and the multi-strip pattern sensors. The gage factor sensor was as high as 15 (bending) and 13 (tension) for the single strip sensor, and 4 (bending) and 21 (tension) for the multi-strip. The sensitivity of these MEMS sensors is much higher than the sensitivity of commercial metal foil strain gages and strain gage alloys.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research is funded by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), contract number N00014-94-C-2231.
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