You are on page 1of 3

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS VOLUME 83, NUMBER 1 7 JULY 2003

Lead-zirconate-titanate-based piezoelectric micromachined switch


S. J. Gross,a) S. Tadigadapa, and T. N. Jackson
Department of Electrical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
S. Trolier-McKinstry
Department of Materials Science & Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
Q. Q. Zhang
Geospace Research, El Segundo, California 90245
共Received 27 November 2002; accepted 3 May 2003兲
A piezoelectric microelectromechanical switch actuated by lead zirconate titanate 共PZT兲 is reported.
A PZT unimorph cantilever actuator, fabricated on a sacrificial polysilicon layer and released using
a xenon difluoride dry etch, was used to realize the switch. The PZT thin film was poled and driven
with interdigitated electrodes to exploit the d33 coefficient for switching actuation. Preliminary dc
and rf switching characteristics are reported. Measurements indicate a fast switching ‘‘on’’ time of
⬍2 ␮s and ‘‘off’’ time of 2 ␮s at an actuation voltage of ⬍40 V. An on/off isolation of ⬎25 dB was
achieved up to 100 MHz. © 2003 American Institute of Physics. 关DOI: 10.1063/1.1589192兴

In this letter, a piezoelectric microelectromechanical sequently the potential for conversion to mechanical work is
switch is presented. The switch uses a PbZr0.52Ti0.48O3 共PZT兲 much greater.8 This difference can lead to lower actuation
cantilever actuator in the d33 mode to achieve switching op- voltages and faster switching speeds. Normally-off electro-
eration and high speed. This work is motivated by the recent static switches rely upon the elastic restoring force of the
advances that have made microelectromechanical systems moving structure for achieving the off state. Since the restor-
共MEMS兲 rf components attractive as replacements for con- ing force is smaller than the closing force, opening is slower,
ventional crystal resonators, filters, and semiconductor leading inevitably to design trade-offs. Piezoelectric strains
switches.1 Application areas that stand to benefit from these can be either positive or negative 共within the limits set by the
emerging rf MEMS technologies include satellite and wire- reorientation of the domain state in a ferroelectric film兲 and
less communication systems, commercial and military radar, can therefore be used actively to turn the switch off as well
global positioning systems, and instrumentation systems.2 as on. This characteristic allows the design of larger contacts
Typical semiconductor switches, such as GaAs field-effect for high-power capability as well as improved reliability due
transistors and p – i – n diodes, currently used in these appli- to mitigated stiction effects.
cations exhibit high insertion losses (S 21) of 1–2 dB or Ferroelectric PZT thin films with high piezoelectric co-
greater, and poor isolation in the off state due to parasitics.3 efficient d33⫽120 pC/N have been used as the active
On the contrary, MEMS switches have demonstrated signifi- material.9,10 Despite the high coefficient, the strain generated
cant improvements with insertion losses of less than 0.1 dB by these perovskite ceramic thin films is typically small, on
up to 40 GHz and very high isolation 共⬎27 dB兲 when turned the order of 0.1%. Therefore, a bending structure is used to
off.2,3 In addition, MEMS switches typically consume negli- increase the deflection at the expense of the force. Figure
gible power during each switching cycle. Signal switching is 1共a兲 shows a schematic representation of the current uni-
accomplished by the mechanical deflection of a suspended morph 共heterogeneous bimorph兲 design, and Fig. 1共b兲 shows
structure yielding a metal-to-metal contact or capacitive cou- a scanning electron microscope 共SEM兲 image of a fabricated
pling. Various actuation methods have been investigated in- switch with dc transmission lines. The unimorph is com-
cluding electrostatic,4 electromagnetic,5 thermal, and posed of a PZT active layer on top of a passive stack of
piezoelectric.6 At present, the majority of MEMS switches zirconia (ZrO2 ) and silicon nitride (Six Ny ). With the inter-
employ electrostatic actuation. However, electrostatic actua- digitated 共IDT兲 electrode configuration the PZT is poled in
tion is a nonlinear mechanism, and usually requires high the transverse direction and actuated in the d33 mode.11,12
voltages to operate, especially if high-frequency operation is The electrode width is 3 ␮m with a separation of 6 ␮m. The
desired. Switching times below 10 ␮s typically require maximum deflection and blocking force in a unimorph are
greater than 50 V.7 achieved by optimizing the thickness ratio of the passive/
Exploiting an alternative actuation method such as the active materials.13 Residual stresses in deposited thin films
converse piezoelectric effect is expected to lead to a substan- often result in out-of-plane bending of the cantilevers, which
tial improvement in device performance. The energy density adversely affects performance, and if severe enough, can pre-
available in ferroelectric thin films such as PZT is at least an vent switch closure completely. Therefore, the structures
order of magnitude greater than with electrostatics, and sub- were stress compensated by controlling the PZT thickness.
Fabrication begins with an insulating substrate, in this
a兲
Electronic mail: sjg12@psu.edu case an oxidized 共1.5-␮m兲 silicon wafer. A sacrificial poly-

0003-6951/2003/83(1)/174/3/$20.00 174 © 2003 American Institute of Physics


Downloaded 03 Jul 2003 to 146.186.113.80. Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://ojps.aip.org/aplo/aplcr.jsp
Appl. Phys. Lett., Vol. 83, No. 1, 7 July 2003 Gross et al. 175

FIG. 2. Switching response 共top兲 to a 1-Hz 20-Vpeak-peak⫹10-Vdc square


wave 共bottom兲.

observe the switching behavior when actuated by short


pulses. Figure 3共a兲 shows an oscilloscope trace of a 30-V,
4-␮s pulse 共top兲 and the switch response 共bottom兲. The noise
seen on the bottom trace during switching is a result of cou-
pling between the IDT electrodes and contact. Figure 3共b兲
shows the response to a pulse of higher voltage but same
duration: 50 V, 4 ␮s. As can be seen, the switching on time is
decreased from 2.5 to about 1.5 ␮s, while the switching off
time remains constant. Preliminary results using a gain-phase
analyzer 共HP4194A兲 have demonstrated that signals up to
FIG. 1. 共a兲 Schematic illustration of unimorph switch and 共b兲 SEM image of
130-␮m cantilever switch with transmission lines.

silicon 共2 ␮m兲 is deposited by low-pressure chemical vapor


deposition methods, and a thin thermal oxide 共50 nm兲 is
grown to act as a barrier layer. Low-stress 共400-MPa兲 silicon
nitride 共0.5 ␮m兲 is deposited as the structural material. A thin
silicon oxide 共50 nm兲 is sputter deposited to promote adhe-
sion of the remaining layers with the nitride. A buffer layer
of 0.3-␮m zirconia and 0.23-␮m PZT are spun on using sol-
gel techniques. The material stack is then patterned using a
combination of ion milling and reactive ion etching. The
contact at the end of the cantilever is deposited by sputter
deposition and patterned by lift-off. The field polysilicon is
then etched away, terminating on the thick substrate oxide. A
blanket Cr/Au is sputter deposited at an angle off normal to
coat below the contact. This blanket layer is etched to define
the transmission lines and IDT electrodes. The final structure
release is attained by dry etching the sacrificial polysilicon in
gaseous XeF2 . 14 A more detailed account of the fabrication
process is presented in Ref. 15.
The completed switches were first tested using 2 V dc on
the transmission lines, with the switch shunting the output
signal to ground when on. A buffer amplifier is used to pro-
vide a high input impedance and a 300-k⍀ resistor is used to
limit the current passed through the contacts. Figure 2 shows
the switching response to a 1-Hz 0–20-V square wave input
superimposed on 10 V dc. The oscilloscope trace demon-
strates that the switch opens and closes concurrently with the
applied signal. Closer examination reveals a 2-␮s switching
time between the off state and the on state, and the same for FIG. 3. Switching response 共bottom trace兲 to 30-V 共a兲 and 50-V 共b兲 2-␮s
switching off. The next series of tests were conducted to pulse 共top trace兲.
Downloaded 03 Jul 2003 to 146.186.113.80. Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://ojps.aip.org/aplo/aplcr.jsp
176 Appl. Phys. Lett., Vol. 83, No. 1, 7 July 2003 Gross et al.

100 MHz can be switched, with approximately 30 dB of quency. Fast switching compared with resonance frequencies
isolation between the on and off states. has also been observed in electrostatic switches.2
These results correspond to a device with a cantilever In conclusion, we have fabricated and tested a transverse
length of 230 ␮m 共27 IDT electrodes兲, a width of 100 ␮m mode piezoelectric microswitch based on ferroelectric PZT
and a 1.1-␮m thickness. The measured fundamental reso- thin films. A robust fabrication process using ion milling and
nance frequency, f 0 ⫽19 kHz, matches to within 10% of dry release in XeF2 to avoid stiction-related problems has
theory. An analysis of the switching time begins with a dy- been developed. Initial measurements have demonstrated
namic model for a one-degree-of-freedom system. The equa- relatively high switching speeds 共1–2 ␮s兲, and ⬃30-dB iso-
tion of motion is given as lation between on and off states at 100 MHz. The actuation
voltage of these piezoelectric switches is expected to be
d 2z dz lower with better stress compensation, more closely spaced
F⫽m ⫹b ⫹kz, 共1兲
dt 2 dt IDT electrodes, or by the use of a bimorph design. Improved
performance at higher frequencies is expected with rf trans-
where m is the mass, z is the position of the tip at time t, k is
mission lines and by using insulating substrates.
the spring constant of the cantilever, and F, the internal
force, is generated by the piezoelectric effect. All forms of The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the
damping, including squeeze damping, have been ignored; b U.S. Army and the Northrop Grumman Corporation.
⫽0.2 The force is modeled as a step function by ignoring the
1
IDT electrode capacitance charging time and material me- C. T.-C. Nguyen, Proceedings of the Sensors Exposition, 19–21 May
1998, p. 447.
chanical relaxation. With the tip displacement and velocity 2
G. Rebeiz and J. Muldavin, IEEE Microwave Mag. 2, 59 共2001兲.
set to zero as initial conditions, the particular solution is 3
J. J. Yao, J. Micromech. Microeng. 10, R9 共2000兲.
given as 4
K. E. Petersen, IBM J. Res. Dev. 23, 376 共1979兲.
5
M. Ruan, J. Shen, C. B. Wheeler, The 14th IEEE International Conference
z 共 t 兲 ⫽z 0 ⫺z 0 cos共 ␻ n t 兲 , 共2兲 on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, 2001, p. 224.
6
C. M. Beck, M. M. Ahmed, C. J. Brierley, A. P. Needham, and S. P.
where z 0 is the static deflection and the natural frequency Marsh, IEEE Intr. Microwave Symposium, 2000.
␻ n ⫽2 ␲ f 0 . The time ( ␶ on) required to close the gap共␦兲 be- 7
E. Brown, IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech. 46, 1868 共1998兲.
8
tween the contact and the transmission lines can be obtained A. M. Flynn, L. S. Tavrow, S. F. Bart, R. A. Brooks, D. J. Ehrlich, K. R.
Udayakumar, and L. E. Cross, J. Microelectromech. Syst. 1, 44 共1992兲.
from Eq. 共2兲: 9
L. E. Cross and S. Trolier-McKinstry, Encl. Appl. Phys. 21, 429 共1997兲.

冉 冊 D. Polla and Lorraine Francis, Annu. Rev. Mater. Sci. 28, 563 共1998兲.
10
1
␶ on⫽ cos⫺1 1⫺ . 共3兲 11
B. Xu, R. G. Polcawich, S. Trolier-McKinstry, Y. Ye, L. E. Cross, J. J.
2␲ f 0 z0 Bernstein, and R. Miller, Appl. Phys. Lett. 75, 4180 共1999兲.
12
Q. Q. Zhang, S. J. Gross, S. Tadigadapa, T. N. Jackson, F. T. Djuth, D. M.
For this device, ␦ ⫽1 ␮ m, z 0 ⫽13 ␮ m at 50 V 共theory兲, and, Machuga, and S. Trolier-McKinstry, Sens. Actuators A 105, 91 共2003兲.
by Eq. 共3兲, ␶ on⫽3.3 ␮ s, which is comparable to the mea- 13
Q.-M. Wang, X.-H. Du, B. Xu, and L. E. Cross, IEEE Trans. Ultrason.
sured value. Since z 0 is proportional to the driving voltage, Ferroelectr. Freq. Control 46, 638 共1999兲.
14
P. B. Chu, J. T. Chen, R. Yeh, G. Lin, J. C. P. Huang, B. A. Warneke, and
the larger the driving voltage, the shorter ␶ on , which is con-
K. S. J. Pister, IEEE International Conference on Transducers’97, 1997.
sistent with experiments. The turn-off time, however, is 15
S. J. Gross, Q. Q. Zhang, S. Tadigadapa, S. Trolier-McKinstry, T. N.
solely determined by the gap spacing and the natural fre- Jackson, and F. Djuth, Proc. SPIE 558, 72 共2001兲.

Downloaded 03 Jul 2003 to 146.186.113.80. Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://ojps.aip.org/aplo/aplcr.jsp