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Sensors and Actuators B 67 2000. 8488 www.elsevier.

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Design of a low power SnO 2 gas sensor integrated on silicon oxynitride membrane
S. Astie a,) , A.M. Gue b, E. Scheid b, J.P. Guillemet a
a

MOTOROLA S.A., A. du General Eisenhower, 31023 Toulouse Cedex, France b LAAS-CNRS, 7 A. du Colonel Roche, 31077 Toulouse Cedex 4, France

Received 3 November 1999; received in revised form 7 February 2000; accepted 7 February 2000

Abstract Power consumption is one of the major challenges for SnO 2 gas sensors. We propose a new solution using a silicon oxynitride membrane SiO x N y ., allowing a low power consumption 65 mW. at the operating temperature 4508C.. Using electro-thermal simulation by finite element method SESESe., a new design was determined with optimized size of heater and membrane area. The corresponding gas sensors were fabricated and their mechanical strength and thermal performances were correlated with FEM electro-thermal simulations. q 2000 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Finite element method; SnO 2 ; Electro-thermal

1. Introduction A large number of tin oxide integrated gas sensors, where the sensitive layer is supported by a silicon membrane, has been developed using standard microelectronics technologies w13x. Recent trends on gas sensors ask for low power consumption below 100 mW. particularly those using batteries, thus excluding the use of conventional sensors. To reduce power consumption, the silicon membrane normally employed due to its mechanical and electrical properties has to be replaced by a dielectric membrane exhibiting a lower thermal conductivity and a high mechanical strength. Even though silicon dioxide has the lowest thermal conductivity 1.4 Wrm K., it has a high residual stress level, giving rise to mechanical strength problems and low fabrication yields. To overcome these problems, two solutions using dielectric materials are generally proposed in the literature: either stacked membranes using compensating layers of compressive oxide. and tensile nitride. stresses w46x or a non-stoichiometric nitride SiN x . membrane w79x. We propose in this paper an alternative solution: low power and high mechanical strength integrated gas sensor obtained with a silicon oxynitride SiO 0.89 N0.73 . w10x mem)

brane. This membrane has been obtained in a single process step and exhibits a thermal conductivity lower than that of nitride. The SnO 2 gas sensor structure was optimized, using an electrothermal simulator NM-SESES. Simulated results shall be compared with fabricated devices. 2. Description of the SnO 2 Motorola Gas Sensor (MGS) 2.1. Sensor micro-structure The device is schematically depicted in Fig. 1: the sensing area SnO 2 . heated by a polysilicon resistor is

Corresponding author.

Fig. 1. Schematic view of the Motorola MGS gas sensor.

0925-4005r00r$ - see front matter q 2000 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 2 5 - 4 0 0 5 0 0 . 0 0 4 0 3 - 2

S. Astie et al.r Sensors and Actuators B 67 (2000) 8488

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Fig. 2. Schematic view of the MGS sensor design with a rectangular polysilicon heater and a square hole in its center top view..

insulated from bulk silicon by an oxynitride membrane after a KOH anisotropic etch of the back-side of the wafer. The design and dimensions of the polysilicon resistor are given on Fig. 2. Details on the sensor micro-structure are reported in Ref. w3x. 2.2. SiOx Ny membrane properties Since the membrane deposition is the first step of the process, the silicon oxynitride composition has to be adjusted in order to match the thermal expansion coefficient of the silicon, allowing a low residual stress level after the thermal treatments of the process flow. To achieve this goal, experimental studies have been carried out, leading to the optimum composition w10x which exhibits a low residual stress between 50 and y50 MPa.. 2.2.1. Mechanical strength Table 1 shows that acceptable values of fabrication yield are obtained for silicon oxynitride membrane thicknesses ranging between 1.0 and 2.0 mm. Due to the low etch rate 0.04 mmrh. of the silicon oxynitride in KOH solution, the membrane thickness is controlled directly by

the deposition stage. The optimum thickness value has been fixed to 1.5 mm. Moreover, accelerated life tests have shown a life time up to 8 years for a 1.5-mm thick membrane, confirming its mechanical strength. 2.2.2. Thermal conductiity The thermal conductivity of the silicon oxynitride membrane was evaluated by fitting the simulated results to the measured values of the device features in vacuum to eliminate the influence of convectional heat transfer.. Table 2 shows that good agreement is obtained for a thermal conductivity of 5 Wrm K. This value is slightly lower than that of nitride and confirms that silicon oxynitride is a good candidate for thermally insulating membranes.

3. Optimization of the sensor design based on FEM simulations The sensor structure depicted in Section 2 has been optimized using a commercially available coupled electrothermal simulation software SESESe. Compared to silicon membrane sensors, the thermal losses by conduction through the oxynitride membrane are significantly reduced, allowing a shrink of areas of membrane and the die size area. The following requirements have to be taken into account. The temperature homogeneity over the SnO 2 layer has a direct impact on the sensitivity and selectivity of the sensor. Thus, the temperature gradient over the sensitive area should not exceed 508C to conserve the sensitivity performance. The SnO 2 area must be kept in the same dimension 1 mm2 . as the former

Table 1 Fabrication yield %. of silicon oxynitride membrane 1.0=0.8 mm2 . after KOH etching Silicon oxynitride membrane thickness mm. Fabrication yield after KOH etching %. 0.5 75 1.0 99.9 1.5 100 2.0 100

Table 2 Comparison of the experimental measurements with the simulations of the thermal performance of the MGS chemical sensor with an oxynitride membrane for Tma x s 4508C Oxynitride thermal conductivity Wrm K. Power consumption mW. Experiment 5 60 Simulation 59 Average temp. over sensitive layer 8C. Heater contact temp. 8C. Experiment 420 Simulation 420 Experiment 247 Simulation 240

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S. Astie et al.r Sensors and Actuators B 67 (2000) 8488 Table 3 Simulated results of thermal performance for the new design as compared to the MGS with a silicon oxynitride membrane for a Tma x s 4508C MGS design Power consumption mW. Average temperature 8C. Contact temperature 8C. 60 420 240 New design 64.5 420 250

Fig. 3. Influence of the heater length L. on the power consumption, average temperature of the sensitive layer and maximum temperature of the polysilicon contact. As1800=1800 mm2 , l s150=150 mm2 , Es 1.5 mm and the heating power was set to Tma x s 4508C.

heat is dissipated through convective exchange with the gaseous phase. The exchange coefficient is taken as 250 Wrm2 K for the upper surface and 125 Wrm2 K for the lower surface deduced from experimental measurements in vacuum; radiation losses have been considered as negligible. According to the criteria listed above, the effect of the length of the polysilicon heater L., the size of the hole in the polysilicon heater l . and the membrane area A. on the temperature distribution and power consumption have been evaluated. All the simulations have been performed at Tmax s 4508C and for a 1.5-mm membrane thickness. The influence of L, l and A on the power consumption and average temperature are reported on Figs. 35, respectively. From these results, it turns out that the temperature homogeneity over the sensitive layer depends mainly on the membrane area. Fig. 5 shows that at least 200 mm should be kept around the heater to have a temperature homogeneity as good as for the silicon membrane sensor MGS sensor..

Fig. 4. Influence of the size of the hole l . in the heater on the maximum temperature of the polysilicon contact. As1800=1800 mm2 , Ls600 mm, Es1.5 mm and the heating power was set to Tma x s 4508C.

MGS sensor. The ohmic contact temperature must be less than 3008C to avoid electro-migration and interdiffusion of metal into the silicon and power consumption must be as low as possible. 3.1. SESES simulations SESESe is a suite of programs that can simulate the sensor and actuator devices by means of a 2D and 3D finite element method. Simulations were performed assuming the following boundary conditions: according to experimental observations, the temperature at the periphery of the die is constant and equal to 308C; on the upper and lower surfaces of the membrane, the

Fig. 6. Schematic view of the new sensor structure obtained by simulations, oxynitride membrane thickness 1.5 mm top view..

Fig. 5. Influence of the membrane area A. on the average temperature of the sensitive layer and maximum temperature of the polysilicon contact. L s 600 mm, l s 150 = 150 mm2 , E s 1.5 mm and the heating power was set to Tma x s 4508C.

S. Astie et al.r Sensors and Actuators B 67 (2000) 8488 Table 4 Comparison of the experimental measurements with the simulations of the thermal performance of the new sensor design for Tma x s 4508C Simulation Power consumption mW. Average temperature 8C. Contact temperature 8C. 64.5 420 250 Experiment 65 420 280

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The reduction of the heater length and hole area induces an increase of the heater contact temperature Figs. 3 and 4., as opposed to a decrease with the membrane area reduction Fig. 5.. The power consumption decreases with the reduction of the heater length Fig. 3. while it increases with the decrease of the membrane area Fig. 5.. Moreover, it has been shown by simulation that convection and conduction losses account for 75% and 15% of total losses, respectively. The oxynitride membrane thickness which has an influence on the conduction losses. is not a critical parameter in terms of power consumption, as opposed to silicon membrane sensors where the power consumption is directly related to the membrane thickness w3x. 3.2. Optimization of the structure As a result, a new structure offering the best trade-off between performances and the size reduction required by cost considerations has been proposed. This new design, compared with the former MGS sensor, allows a reduction by two of the die area, inducing production cost reduction, a power consumption below 65 mW for a maximum operating temperature of 4508C and comparable thermal performances as MGS silicon membrane sensors Table 3..

Fig. 8. Influence of the membrane thickness on the power consumption for a sensor with a silicon oxynitride membrane experimental results..

It consists of a rectangular die 2300 = 2100 mm2 . with L s 600 mm, l s 100 mm, A s 1000 = 800 mm2 and E s 1.5 mm Fig. 6..

4. Thermal performances of the optimized sensor Thermal performances have been characterized using an Infra Red camera AVIO 2100, with a pixel resolution of 12.5 = 20 mm2 . Experimental thermal IR measurements have confirmed the validity of the predictions obtained with SESES simulations. Table 4 shows an excellent correlation between the simulated and experimental measurements for the new design. The power consumption at the operating temperature of 4508C is three times less for the silicon oxynitride membrane compared with the silicon membrane Fig. 7.. Moreover, thickness variation does not influence the power consumption Fig. 8., as opposed to the silicon membrane sensor.

5. Conclusion To reduce the power consumption of an integrated tin oxide gas sensor, we propose a new solution using the silicon oxynitride membrane SiO x N y . This membrane is obtained with a single process step, exhibits a low thermal conductivity and has a high mechanical strength, giving a 100% fabrication yield. Moreover, knowledge of the thermal coefficients of the materials allows us to optimize the design of the gas sensor using an FEM simulator. The performances predicted by this model, such as the power consumption and the temperature distribution, were confirmed by experimental measurements. A new tin oxide gas sensor has been successfully fabricated using this new design. This new generation of sensors allows a shrinkage by two of the die size and a reduction by three of the

Fig. 7. Comparison of the power consumption between two sensors: one using a silicon membrane and the other using a silicon oxynitride membrane experimental results..

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S. Astie et al.r Sensors and Actuators B 67 (2000) 8488 w10x J.P. Guillemet, M. Combes, S. Astie, E. Scheid, Electronic device and method for forming a membrane for an electronic device, European Patent no. no. EP97401796.4-2203 1997..

power consumption compared with silicon membrane sensors.

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Biographies
Stephane Astie was born on the 19th of December 1970. He received the PhD degree in material science from Toulouse University in 1998. He joined Motorola and the Laboratoire dArchitecture et dAnalyse des sytemes from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique LAAS-CNRS. in 1995. He is now working as a defectivity engineer on SMARTMOS technology. Anne-Marie Gue graduated from the National Institute for Applied Sciences in 1983, and she received her PhD degree in Solid State Physics in 1985. She joined the LAAS-CNRS in 1988 and presently works on chemical sensor integration. Emmanuel Scheid was born the on 20th of April 1960. He received the degree of electronic engineering in the Ecole Nationale dElectronique et de Radioelectricite de Grenoble ENSERG, France. in 1982. He received the PhD degree from the Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble INPG, France. in 1987. Since 1989, he has been working in the Laboratoire dArchitecture et dAnalyse des sytemes from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique LAAS-CNRS. on the physics and chemistry of elaboration of tin films for microelectronic. Jean Paul Guillemet was born on the 24th of December 1966. He received the PhD degree in material science from Orsay University in 1994. He joined MOTOROLA in 1994 as process engineer in the Chemical Sensor R&D team. He is now working as process integration on SMARTMOS technology. Lionel Lescouzeres was born the 24th of December 1966. He received the PhD degree in material Science from Orsay University in 1994. He joined MOTOROLA in 1994 as process engineer in the Chemical Sensor R&D team. He is now working as process integration on SMARTMOS technology