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J. Micromech. Microeng. 12 (2002) 187191

PII: S0960-1317(02)31710-8

A low-temperature bonding technique

using spin-on fluorocarbon polymers to
assemble microsystems
Kwang W Oh1, Arum Han2, Shekhar Bhansali2
and Chong H Ahn2

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, MEMS Laboratory, Biochip Project Team,

PO Box 111, Suwon 440-600, Korea
University of Cincinnati, Microsystems and BioMEMS Laboratory, Department of
Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, PO Box 210030, Cincinnati,
OH 45221-0030, USA

Received 6 December 2001

Published 18 February 2002
Online at
A new low-temperature biochemically compatible polymer bonding process
has been successfully developed. The bonding has been characterized for
bond strength and chemical resistance. This technique has successfully
addressed a major challenge in the development of microfluidic systems
from discrete components by enabling the bonding of the components to the
microfluidic motherboards at low temperatures and ensuring reliable,
leak-proof and chemically inert bonding. This bonding technique uses a
spin-on Teflon-like amorphous fluorocarbon polymer. The bonding
technique lowers the bonding temperature (160 C), shows a good bond
strength of 4.3 MPa in silicon-to-silicon, and has excellent chemical
resistance to various chemicals used in microelectromechanical systems

1. Introduction
In recent years, the lack of low-temperature biochemically
compatible bonding techniques for microfluidic systems
has been a major challenge in the development of the
silicon/glass-based lab-on-a-chip. The development of these
systems requires specific biocompatible materials for bonding,
packaging and assembling at low temperatures (<200 C). A
variety of microfluidic components are currently fabricated
from silicon [1], glass [2] and polymers [3]. One of the
major limitations in the development of complete systems
from discrete components, such as microvalves, micropumps
and reaction/detection chambers, has been the inability to
reliably bond the diverse and discrete components, made of
different materials such as silicon, glass and polymers, to other
components or microfluidic motherboards at low temperatures.
Figure 1 shows a microfluidic system with fluidic components
assembled on a fluidic motherboard. In implementing the
fluidic systems, a reliable and repeatable bonding process
requires that it does not alter the properties and performance
of the components it is bonding. Therefore, a low-temperature
0960-1317/02/020187+05$30.00 2001 IOP Publishing Ltd

bonding process is essential to ensure the integrity of the

components during the bonding, packaging or assembling of
these microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) components.
This is because the low temperature reduces the detrimental
effect of thermal mismatch and prevents the degradation of
metal and polymer structures and integrated complementary
metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuits on the MEMS
devices. To date, several wafer bonding techniques have been
established, such as silicon-to-silicon anodic bonding with a
sputtered low melting temperature glass layer [4], SiO2SiO2
bonding with hydrofluoric acid (HF) [5], and glass-to-glass
bonding with a spin-on sodium silicate layer [6]. A new lowtemperature wafer bonding using perfluorosulfonate polymer
[7] has also been developed. However, all these techniques are
strongly dependent on wafer surfaces and are thus not universal
to be bonded; in some instances they require a higher bonding
temperature (>250 C) or the positioning of a substrate coated
with an uncured liquid polymer layer on the other substrate.
To address the above issues, we have used a biocompatible
spin-on Teflon-like material as an intermediate bonding layer
in the bonding of various wafers at temperatures as low

Printed in the UK


K W Oh et al

Table 1. Chemicals used to test the chemical resistance of the polymer (RT denotes room temperature).
Au etchant
Cr etchant
Aqua Regia
Cu etchant
49% HF


Figure 1. A schematic view of a microfluidic system with a

microvalve mounted on a fluidic motherboard.

as 160 C. In this paper, we report on the processing

conditions developed to use the Teflon-like material as an
intermediate bonding layer and we present initial results of
low-temperature glass-to-glass, silicon-to-glass and siliconto-silicon bonding. The bonding strength of each bond is
also reported along with chemical resistance tests in various
chemicals. Both wafer-to-wafer bonding and componentto-microfluidic motherboard bonding have successfully been
carried out using this technique.

2. Fabrication and experimental details

The polymer is a new class of cyclized perfluoro polymer
(CPFP), which is commercially available [8]. This material
comes dissolved in solvents and thus can be spin-coated,
dip-coated or spray-coated onto various surfaces with good



30 hours @ 65 C

No effect

16 hours @ 55 C

No effect

1 day @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

1 hour @ RT

No effect

3 hours @ RT

No effect

adhesion. Good adhesion of the film to silicon, glass and

metal substrates is obtained either by silane coupling agent
pre-treatment or Si(OR)n modification of the polymer. Good
adhesion and thermoplastic characteristics of this material
make it an appropriate intermediate layer for low-temperature
bonding. As the film can be patterned using conventional
photolithography and plasma etching processes, it is also
very useful in packaging and assembling devices. Its optical
transparency and chemical inertness to solutions are useful
when the substrate has to be exposed to radiation and solvents
for further processing. The film can also be used for protection
of integrated circuit (IC) areas in integrated MEMS devices,
because of its excellent resistance to alkalis and acids [9].
Its high light transmittance (95%) from ultraviolet (UV) to
near-infrared also makes it a good material in optical MEMS
and micro total analysis system (-TAS) applications.
To characterize the chemical resistance of the film in
various solutions, both borosilicate glass and silicon wafers
have been used as substrates. Both substrate wafers are 2
inches in diameter and 250 m thick. The polymer film
(CYTOP, CTL-809M) was spun on substrates at 1500 rpm
to obtain a film thickness of 1.4 m. After spinning the
film, the substrate was cured at 90 C for 30 min to remove
solvents. Test chips were made by dicing a second set of wafers
to a rectangular shape of 6.35 6.35 mm2 using a dicing
saw. The test chips were placed on the film-coated substrate.
The resulting sandwich structure was put on a hotplate and
heated to a bonding temperature of 160 C. Once the bonding
temperature was achieved, the sandwich was compressed at an
applied pressure of 4 MPa for 30 min. The resulting structures
were tested for both the mechanical properties of bonding and
the chemical stability of the bonds under different conditions.
The chemical resistance of the film and the bonded
surface was tested in two ways. Firstly, the Teflon-like filmcoated wafer was tested in various chemicals used in MEMS
processing, which are listed in table 1. Table 1 tabulates the
substrates that were exposed, the chemicals they were exposed
to, the conditions of exposure, and the results. Next the bonded

A low-temperature bonding technique to assemble microsystems



Figure 4. A schematic diagram of the experimental set-up for
bonding strength measurements.

Figure 2. The fabrication process of the Teflon-like film cross
pattern: (a) spin-coat the film; (b) spin-coat the photoresist and
lithography; (c) etch the film using oxygen plasma; (d) remove the

three sets of bonded structures: glassglass, glasssilicon

and siliconsilicon. To characterize the optimum condition
for bonding, different pressures and temperatures were used
for bonding. Bonding was also performed using different
thicknesses of the film by spin-coating the material at different
speeds. After bonding, the bonding strength was measured by
applying tensile stress to the bonded interface. Figure 4 shows
an experimental set-up for the bonding strength test.

3. Results and discussion

Figure 3. Photograph of a convex cross pattern of the film after

reactive ionized etching.

sandwich structures were tested in the same chemicals under

identical conditions.
To evaluate the bond strength of the interface, the film
was patterned in the shape of a convex cross, and patterned
by a reactive ionized etching. The film was etched in oxygen
plasma at 150 W for 10 min at an oxygen flow rate of 20 sccm.
The process is summarized in figure 2. Figure 3 shows an
optical micrograph of the convex cross. Silicon and glass
chips were aligned to the 1.4 m thick convex cross pattern
on the substrate wafers and then bonded. This resulted in

After evaluating the durability of the film on the substrates

(table 1), the surface was examined under an optical microscope to observe any physical changes to the film. The
films were not affected by any of the chemicals, under the
conditions listed in table 1. The bond strength of the interface,
after exposure to chemicals, was evaluated qualitatively using
a blade. The blade was used to tear off the bonded chips
from the substrates. We were unsuccessful in separating the
test chips from the substrates using a razor blade. Figure 5
shows a cross-sectional scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
photograph of a diced and polished sample of a glass chip
on a glass wafer, where the intermediate interface with
a thickness of approximately 2 m is void-free and very
uniform. To quantitatively determine the strength of this bond
interface, the sandwich structure was subjected to a tensile
Figure 6 summarizes the result of the bond strength tests
conducted on the three sets of bonded structures with varying
film thicknesses at different applied pressures during bonding.
It can be seen that the glasspolymerglass sandwich has the
lowest bond strength and the siliconpolymersilicon interface has the highest bond strength. The physics of the bonding
process is based on the timetemperature relationships and
the proprietary functional groups in the polymer chain, introduced to increase adhesion. When the Teflon-like film-coated
surface is brought into close contact with another surface at
an optimum temperature, the proprietary functional groups in
the softened film bind to the new surface, as the polymer chain
closes itself. Upon cooling, the two surfaces are strongly
bound. The difference in bond strength may be due to the

K W Oh et al

Figure 7. Relationship of bonding temperature to bonding strength

between silicon and silicon at an applied pressure of 10 MPa and a
film thickness of 1.4 m.

Figure 5. SEM photograph of the bonded interface between a glass

chip and a glass wafer.


Figure 6. The results of the bond strength test conducted on the

three sets of bonded structures with varying film thicknesses at
applied pressures of 4 MPa and 7 MPa.

surface chemistry of adhesion and the surface area of contact.

We have also observed that it is desirable to spin-cost the film
on a silicon surface rather than a glass surface to increase the
bond strength. The bond strength over a glass surface can
be improved by applying higher pressures during bonding, as
can be seen from the relationship between applied pressure
and bond strength shown in figure 6. This suggests that
the increased area of contact and/or pressure results in a
strong bonding of the film to the surface. The investigation
of the relationship of bond strength to surface roughness,
wafer curvature, and pre-curing temperature, currently under
progress, will allow us to fully understand the process of
bonding. Figure 7 shows the relationship of the bonding


Figure 8. Microvalve surface mounted on a microfluidic

motherboard using Teflon-like bonding techniques: (a) cut view and
(b) photograph.

temperature to bonding strength between silicon and silicon at

an applied pressure of 10 MPa and a film thickness of 1.4 m.
It can be seen that, at a temperature lower than the glass
transition temperature of the polymer (108 C), no bonding
occurred. A bond strength of 4.3 MPa is also shown in siliconto-silicon at an optimized bonding temperature of 160 C.

A low-temperature bonding technique to assemble microsystems

Figure 8 shows a surface mounted microvalve on

a microfluidic motherboard using the developed bonding
technique. The polymer was spin-coated on the glass motherboard and then the film was patterned by photolithography and plasma etching. Plasma etching is required
to open wire-bonding pads for electrical interconnection. The
microfluidic components, which were surface mounted onto
the microfluidic motherboard, show good mechanical stability,
and there was no fluid leakage at the inlet and outlet fluidic
interconnections through the fluidic motherboard [10].

4. Conclusions
A low-temperature polymer bonding technique has been
successfully developed and characterized in this work. The
bonding technique, using spin-on Teflon-like amorphous
fluorocarbon polymer films, shows a lower bonding
temperature (160 C) and a bond strength of 4.3 MPa
in silicon-to-silicon. The film, which is biochemically
compatible and has an excellent resistance to various
chemicals, has facilitated the assembly of a microfluidic
system reported previously in [10]. The low-temperature
biochemically compatible bonding technique developed in
this work has a high potential for bonding, packaging or
assembling various biochemical microfluidic systems.

This research has been fully funded by DARPA contract
AF F30602-00-1-0569 under the BioFlips Programme,

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