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This Chapter will present the working principles of various micro
sensors and actuators in microsystems.

Ɣ Minute sensors are expected to detect a variety of signals associated
Accelerations (velocity and forces),
Biological and biomedical
Forces (e.g., microaccelerometers and gyroscopes)
Thermal (temperatures),

Input samples may be: motion of a solid, pressurized liquids or gases,
biological and chemical substances.
Ɣ Due to the minute sizes, microactuators work on radically different
principles than the conventional electromagnetic means, such as
solenoids and ac/dc motors.

Instead, electrostatic, thermal, piezoelectric and shape-
alloys are extensively used in microactuations.

Working Principles for Microsensors


Input Sensing Transduction Output
Signal Unit Signal

Acoustic Wave Sensors

Acoustic wave sensor does not related to the sensing of acoustic waves transmitted in
solids or other media, as the name implies.

Primary application of these sensors is to act like “band filters” in mobile telephones and
base stations.

Other applications include:
•2 sets of “Interdigital Transducers” (IDT)
• Sensing of torques and tire pressures are created on a piezoelectric layer
• Sensing biological and chemical substances attached to a tiny substrate as shown
• Sensing vapors, humidity and temperature •Energize by an AC source to the “Input IDT”
• Monitor fluid flow in microfluidics will close and open the gaps of the finger
electrodes, and thus surface deformation/
stresses transmitting through the piezo-
electric material
•The surface deformation/stresses will
cause the change of finger electrodes in
the “Output IDT”
•Any change of material properties (chemical
attacks) or geometry due to torques will
alter the I/O between the “Input IDT” and
“Output IDT.”
•The sensing of contact environment or
pressure can thus be accomplished

. BioMEMS The term “BioMEMS” has been a popular terminology in the MEMS industry in recent years due to the many break-through in this technology. BioMEMS include the following three major areas: (1) Biosensors for identification and measurement of biological substances. (2) Bioinstruments and surgical tools. which many believe to be a viable lead to mitigate the sky-rocketing costs in healthcare costs in many industrialized countries. and (3) Bioanalytical systems for testing and diagnoses.

. (3) Compatibility with biological systems of the patients. and easy navigation for operations such as those required in laparoscope's surgery. (5) Fabrication of MEMS structures with high aspect ratio (defined as the ratio of the dimensions in the depth of the structure to the dimensions of the surface) Note: Almost all bioMEMS products are subjected to the approval for marketing by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) of the US government. Major Technical Issues in BioMEMS Products: (1) Functionality for the intended biomedical operations. (2) Adaptive to existing instruments and equipment. mobility. (4) Controllability.

Biomedcial Sensors For the measurements of biological substances in the sample and also for medical diagnosis purposes. Transduction unit: the product of whatever the chemical reactions between the sample and the chemical in the sensing element will convert itself into electrical signal (e. in milli volts.. environmental protection. Input signal: Biological sample (e. . drug discovery and delivery. Output signal: The converted electrical signal usually in mV. mV). Biomedical Sensors and Biosensors These sensors are extensively used in medical diagnosis.g. etc. blood samples or body fluids typically in minute amount in µL or nL) Microsensing element: a chemical that reacts with the sample.g.

. and builds up layers at that electrode. Pt electrode Blood sample Polyvinyl alcohol solution V H+ H+ H+ H+ H+ i Ag/AgCl Reference electrode Working principle: Ɣ The glucose in patient’s blood sample reacts with the O2 in the polyvinyl alcohol solution and produces H2O2.Example of a biomedical sensor: A sensor for measuring the glucose concentration of a patient. ƔThe difference of potential between the two electrodes due to the build-up of H2 in the Pt electrode relates to the amount of glucose in the blood sample. ƔThe H2 in H2O2 migrates toward Pt film in a electrolysis process.

Signal transduction is carried out by the sensing element as shown below: ANALYTE Biomolecule B B Supply Biomolecule Layer B B Chemical B B B B Optical Output Thermal Sensor Signals Resonant Electrochemical ISFET (Ion Sensitive Field Effect Transducer) . Biosensors These sensors work on the principle of interactions between the biomolecules in the sample and the analyte (usually in solution) in the sensor.

g..O2 and the sensing materials. Chemical Sensors Work on simple principles of chemical reactions between the sample. (2) Chemicapacitor sensors. There are four (4) common types of chemical sensors: (1) Chemiresistor sensors. Chemically Sensitive Polyimide Input current Output: or voltage Metal Insert Change of Resistance Input Voltage Metal Electrodes Output: Capacitance Change Measurand Gas . e. Signal transduction is the changing of the physical properties of the sensing materials after specific type of chemical reactions.g. . a metal. e.

g.g. Measuring the change of the shape of the sensing materials determines the presence of the chemical. Chemical Sensors-Cont’d (3) Chemimechanical sensors: Work on certain materials (e.. SnO 2 change their electrical resistance when exposed to certain chemicals. Measurand Gas Electric Contact SnO2 SiO2 Silicon Substrate . (4) Metal oxide gas sensors: Sensing materials: certain semiconducting materials. polymers) that change shapes when they are exposed to chemicals. e.

Mo Halogenated hydrocarbons WO3 Pt NH3 Fe2O3 Ti-doped + Au CO Ga2O3 Au CO MoO3 None NO2. Chemical Sensors-Cont’d Available metal oxide gas sensors: Semiconducting Metals Catalyst Additives Gas to be Detected BaTiO3/CuO La2O3. H2S SnO2 CuO H2S ZnO V. CaCO3 CO2 SnO2 Pt + Sb CO SnO2 Pt Alcohols SnO2 Sb2O3 H2. CO In2O3 None O3 . O2.

Optical Sensors Ɣ These sensors are used to detect the intensity of lights. Ɣ The following four (4) types of optical sensors are available: Photon Energy Photon Energy Semiconductor A is more transparent R Semiconductor A to photon energy in Junction incident light Semiconductor B ∆R ⇒ (a) Photovoltaic junction (b) Photoconductive device Bias Voltage Photon Energy Photon Energy Reverse _ R Bias + p-Material Voltage p n Vout n-Material Leads (c) Photodiodes . Ɣ It works on the principle of energy conversion between the photons in the incident light beams and the electrons in the sensing materials.

e. Other materials. GaAs has higher electron mobility than Si. Potassium (K) and Rubidium (Rb) are used for this purpose.g. Lithium (Li).thus higher quantum efficiency. . Sodium (Na). Optical Sensors-Cont’d Photon Energy p Collector n p Emitter Collector p n p Emitter Base Base (d) Phototransistors Silicon (Si) and Gallium arsenide (GaAs) are common sensing materials.

e. Pressure Sensors Ɣ Micro pressure sensors are used to monitor and measure minute gas pressure in environments or engineering systems.g. Ɣ Micro pressure sensors work on the principle of mechanical bending of thin silicon diaphragm by the contact air or gas pressure. automobile intake pressure to the engine. Ɣ They are among the first MEMS devices ever developed and produced for “real world” applications. Measurand Fluid Inlet Silicon Die with Diaphragm Cavity Cavity Constraint Base Measurand Fluid Inlet (a) Back side pressurized (b) Front side pressurized .

R = Piezoresistors 1 2 3 4 Ɣ These tiny piezoresistors are made from doped silicon. They work on the similar principle as “foil strain Metal Pad R R 4Metal Pad 3 gages” with much smaller sizes (in R µm). R . R .R3 = resistance induced by longitudinal and transverse stresses R2. b R2(-ve) R(-ve) 4 Silicone gel Silicon Metal Diaphragm Die Casing Attach Pyrex Glass Wheatstone bridge for signal transduction Constraining Base or Metal ⎛ R R ⎞ 1 3 Header Vo =V in ⎜⎜ − ⎟⎟ Interconnect Passage for ⎝R1 +R4 R2+R3⎠ Pressurized Medium R1. R . Pressure Sensors-Cont’d Ɣ The strains associated with the deformation of the diaphragm are measured by tiny “piezoresistors” placed in “strategic locations” on the diaphragm.R4 = reference resistors . but have much higher 1 R 2 sensitivities and resolutions. Top view of silicon die R3 (+ve) R1(+ve) Wire bond Piezoresistors + Metal film Vin a Vo Dielectric layer .

Pressure Sensors-Cont’d Ɣ Other ways of transducing the deformation of the diaphragm to electronic output signals are available.85 pF/m Base A = Overlap area D = Gap between plate electrodes Measurand Fluid Inlet Diffused p-type Vibrating beam: electrode (n-type Si wafer. e.x 100 µm thick (for higher resolutions) Silicon die Signal output: Shift of (400 µm thick) resonance frequencies by change of stresses in lower plate electrode by applied pressure loading Pressurized medium Constraint base ..40 µm wide Silicon diaphragm x 600 µm long x 6 µm thick) By resonant vibration 1200 µm sq.g. Metallic Signal output: capacitance changes Electrode Silicon Cover (for higher temperature applications) Metallic A V Electrode C=ε r εo Silicon Die d Cavity εr = Relative permittivity = 1.0 with air Constraint εo = Permittivity in vacuum = 8.

5 Gap.5 2 2. Two Common Types of Micro Pressure Sensors Sensors using piezoresistors: • Small in size • Linear I/O relation • Temperature sensitive Sensors using capacitances: • Tends to be bulky • Suited for elevated temperature application • Nolinear I/O relations • Lower cost Nonlinear I/O with plate pressure sensors using electrodes Electric circuit bridge for converting capacitance changes to voltage output: ∆C Vo = Vin 2(2C +∆C ) Variable C capacitor 14 12 Vo Vin 10 8 C C 6 4 2 0 0 0.5 1 1. micrometer .

. which are often corrosive. erosive. and at high temperatures. Pressure Sensors-Cont’d Ɣ Major problems in pressure sensors are in the system packaging and protection of the diaphragm from the contacting pressurized media.

Ɣ Common thermal sensors involve thermocouples and thermopiles. or measure temperature in an environment or of an engineering systems. Thermal Sensors Ɣ Thermal sensors are used to monitor. Ɣ Thermal sensors work on the principle of the electromotive forces (emf) generated by heating the junction made by dissimilar materials (beads): Metal Wire A Heat Heat Metal Wire A Cold Junction i i V Voltage Output Hot Junction Bead i V i Metal Wire B Metal Wire B Voltage Output (a) A thermocouple (b) A dual junction thermocouple The generated voltage (V) by a temperature rise at the bead (ǻT) is: V = β∆T where ȕ = Seebeck coefficient .

36 J Iron/Constantan 50.23 to 21.19 at 600oC -50 to 1768 -0.84 to 76. Thermal Sensors-Cont’d The Seebeck coefficients for various thermocouples are: Type Wire Materials Seebeck Coefficient Range (oC) Range (mV) (µV/oC) E Chromel/Constantan 58.24 to 18.48 at 0oC -270 to 1372 -6.87 S Pt (13%)-Rh/Pt 11.35 at 600oC -50 to 1768 -0.70 T Copper/Constantan 38.74 at 0oC -270 to 400 -6.55 to 54.26 to 20.70 at 0oC -270 to 1000 -9.11 Common thermocouples are of K and T types .37 at 0oC -210 to 1200 -8.54 K Chromel/Alumel 39.10 to 69.87 R Platinum (10%)-Rh/Pt 10.

. Thermal Sensors-Cont’d Thermopiles are made of connecting a series of thermocouples in parallel: Thermocouples Cold Junction Region. Tc ∆V The induced voltage (ǻV) by the temperature change at the hot junction (ǻT) is: ∆V = N β ∆T with N = number of thermocouple pairs in the thermopile.

Thermal Sensors-Cont’d A micro thermal sensor: 3.3 µm thick Ɣ Response time is 50 ms Top view Hot Junction Region Thermocouples Silicon Rim Diaphragm Support Elevation .6 mm dia x 1.6 mm x 20 µm thick Junction Region Ɣ Typical output is 100 mV Diaphragm: 1.6 mm Ɣ 32 polysilicon-gold thermocouples 32 Thermocouples 16 µm wide Cold Junction Ɣ dimension of thermopile is: Hot Region 3.6 mm x 3.

Working Principles for Microactuators Power Supply Micro Output Transduction Actuating Action Unit Element Power supply: Electrical current or voltage Transduction unit: To covert the appropriate form of power supply into the desired form of actions of the actuating element Actuating element: A material or component that moves with power supply Output action: Usually in a prescribed motion .

a material property. . in which Į = coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) . Ɣ When two materials with distinct CTE bond together and is subjected to a temperature change. Actuation Using Thermal Forces Ɣ Solids deform when they are subjected to a temperature change (¨T) Ɣ A solid rod with a length L will extend its length by ¨L = Į¨T. the compound material will change its geometry as illustrated below with a compound beam: Heat α1 > α2 α1 α2 Ɣ These compound beams are commonly used as microswitches and relays in MEMS products.

Ɣ A microswitch actuated with SMA: Shape Memory Alloy Strip e.g. Ɣ Ti-Ni is a common SMA. Ɣ These alloys are deformed into different geometry at typically room temperature. Ɣ The deformed SMA structures will return to their original shapes when they are heated to the elevated temperature at their productions. Actuation Using Shape Memory Alloys (SMA) Ɣ SMA are the materials that have a “memory” of their original geometry (shape) at a typically elevated temperature of production. TiNi or Nitinolor Resistance Heating Strip Silicon Cantilever Beam Constraint Base .

g. Actuation Using Piezoelectric Crystals Ɣ A certain crystals. Ɣ This behavior may be illustrated as follows: Induced Mechanical Mechanical Deformation Forces V Mechanical force induced Electric voltage induced electric voltage mechanical deformation Ɣ This peculiar behavior makes piezoelectric crystals an ideal candidate for microactuation as illustrated in the following case: . quartz exhibit an interesting behavior when subjected to a mechanical deformation or an electric voltage.. e.

Actuation Using Piezoelectric Crystals-Cont’d A micro relay or microelectrical switch Electrodes V Piezoelectric Silicon Cantilever Beam Constraint Base .

Actuation Using Electrostatic Forces Ɣ Electrostatic Force between Two Particles .85 pF/m in vacuum (= İo) r = Distance between the particles (m) .85 x 10-12 C2/N-m2 or 8.The Coulomb’s Law: A (with charge q) B (with charge q’) The attraction or repulsive force: 1 qq' F = 4πε r 2 where İ = permittivity of the medium between the two particles = 8.

C is: C=ε r εo =ε r εo d d Ɣ The induced normal force. Actuation Using Electrostatic Forces-Cont’d Ɣ Electrostatic Force Normal to Two Electrically Charged Plates: Length. L V Gap. Fd is: Fd 1 r εo WL V 2 ε 2 d2 =− of the dielectric material between the two plates in which İr = relative permittivity (see Table 2. . d A WL Ɣ The induced capacitance.2 for values of İr for common dielectric materials).

Actuation Using Electrostatic Forces-Cont’d Ɣ Electrostatic Force Parallel to Two Misaligned Electrically Charged Plates: Fd Fw L FL V d W Ɣ Force in the “Width” direction: Fw 1 r εo L 2 ε 2 d V =− Ɣ Force in the “Length” direction: 1 ε r εo W 2 FL =− V 2 d .

Popular method.∆L . Can have V many sets to make “Comb drive” actuators Aligning the electrodes. Applications of Microactuations Microgrippers An essential component in microrobots in assembly microassemblies and surgery Two gripping methods: Gripping Arms Closing The normal plate electrodes V Electrodes the gap. The sliding plate electrodes V .Not practical b/c requiring more space.d V .

A Typical Microgripper with “Comb drive” Actuators: 400 µm 100 µm Drive Arm Arrangement of electrodes: 10 µm V Closure Arm 160 Drastic reduction in required 140 actuation voltage with increase 120 of number of pairs of electrodes: 100 80 60 40 20 0 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Number of Electrode Pairs .

Applications of Microactuations Miniature Microphones A niche market in mobile telecommunications and intelligent hearing aides Acoustic Wave Input dB = unit of noise level: (air pressure wave) dBĺ MPa ⎛P⎞ Electrical signal output: dB= 20 log 10⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ Diaphragm: ≈ 1µm thick Backplate (≈2 µm) ⎝Po⎠ Air gap (§2 µm) ǻC where P = Air pressure (Pa) Acoustic holes Po = Reference air pressure at threshold sound level Pressure equalization hole Most microphones are designed for 20-80 dB in the frequency range of 150-1000 Hz A major challenge in MEMS microphone design and manufacture is the packaging and integration of MEMS and CMOS integrated circuits for signal conditioning and processing .

Ɣ The two sets have slightly different pitch between electrodes Pitch: W w+w/3 Step Movements W/3 Moving set A’ B’ C’ D’ electrodes: Dielectric material Fixed set electrodes: A B C D W W . quartz film). as will be demonstrated in the following two cases: Linear stepping motors: Ɣ Two sets of electrodes in the form of plates separated by dielectric material (e. Ɣ One electrode set is fixed and the other may slide over with little friction. the driving forces for micro motors is primarily the parallel electrostatic forces between pairs of misaligned electrically charged plates (electrodes). Applications of Microactuations Micromotors Unlike traditional motors.g.

the pair B and B’ become misaligned. Applications of Micro Actuations-Cont’d Pitch: W w+w/3 Step Movements W/3 Moving set A’ B’ C’ D’ electrodes: Dielectric material Fixed set electrodes: A B C D W W Ɣ Energize the set A-A’ will generate a force pulling A’ over A due to initial misalignment. . Ɣ Energize the misaligned B-B’ will generate electrostatic force pulling B’ over B. Ɣ Energize C’ and C will produce another step movement of the moving set over the stationary set. Ɣ It is now with C’ and C being misaligned. or the size of preset mismatch of the pitch between the two electrode sets. Ɣ Repeat the same procedure will cause continuous movements of the moving sets Ɣ The step size of the motion = w/3. Ɣ Once A and A’ are aligned.

Ɣ There is preset mismatch of pitches of the electrodes in the two sets. Ɣ Dielectric material between rotor and stator is air. Applications of Micro Actuations-Cont’d Rotary stepping motors: Ɣ Involve two sets of electrodes. .one set for the rotor and the other for the stator.

A micro motor produced by Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center. Applications of Microactuations-Cont’d Ɣ Working principle of this rotary motor is similar to that in linear motors. Germany: Rotor Gear for transmitting Stator torque .

Ɣ Heating ring is made of aluminum films 5 µm thick. Ɣ Power consumption is 1. Ɣ Circular in geometry. Ɣ The valve is actuated by thermal force generated by heating rings.5 W. Electric Resistance Heating Rings Flexible Silicon Diaphragm INLET FLOW Silicon Base Constraint Base Centerline FLOW OUTLET . Ɣ The valve has a capacity of 300 cm3/min at a fluid pressure of 100 psig.Microvalves Ɣ A special microvalve designed by Jerman in 1990. with diaphragm of 2.5 mm in diameter x 10 µm thick.

Micropumps Electrostatically actuated micropump: Ɣ An electrostatic actuated pump in 1992. Ɣ Pumping rate is 70 µL/min at 25 Hz. Ɣ The gap between the diaphragm and the electrode is 4 µm. Deformable Silicon Diaphragm V Electrode Pumping Chamber Inlet Check Valve Outlet Check Valve Constraint Base Low Pressure High Pressure Fluid Inlet Fluid Outlet . Ɣ The pump is of square geometry with 4 mm x 4mm x 25 µm thick.

Piezoelectrically actuated pump: Ɣ An effective way to pump fluid through capillary tubes. Ɣ Outside tube wall is coated with piezoelectric crystal film. Ɣ Tube wall is flexible.g. e. Piezoelectric coating with transducer Flow F V Flexible Tube Wall . ZnO with aluminum interdigital transducers (IDTs). Ɣ Radio-frequency voltage is applied to the IDTs. resulting in mechanical squeezing in section of the tube (similar to the squeezing of toothpaste) Ɣ Smooth flow with “uniform” velocity profile across the tube cross section.

. They are often referred to as “Heat pumps. Ɣ A pipe with triangular or trapezoidal x-section (dp § 100 µm) is in contacts with heat source.. e... IC and a heat sink.g.” Micro heat pipes provide promising solution to effective heat dissipation in micro and molecular electronics circuits as will be presented in Chapter 12.g. ambient cool air with cooling air by a fan. Ɣ The pipe contains liquid. e.g. Ethanol Ɣ Liquid vaporizes near the heat source Ɣ The vapor flows towards heat sink due to Ɣtemperature The vapor condenses difference in the motion due to drop in temperature Cross-Sections Ɣ Vapor turns into liquid near the heat sink LIQUID Heat Ɣ The condensed liquid moves in the sharp Sink corners towards the heat sink due to the Heat capillary effect VAPOR Source Ɣ The liquid vaporizes upon arriving at the heat sink Elevation Ɣ The heat transport cycle repeats itself as long as temperature differences between the heat source and sink maintain. e. Micro Heat Pipes Heat pipes = Closed systems that transport heat from heat source @ higher temperature to heat sink @ lower temperature.

Microaccelerometers Ɣ Accelerometers are used to measure dynamic forces associated with moving objects. Ɣ A typical accelerometer consists of a “proof mass” supported by a spring and a “dashpot” for damping of the vibrating proof mass: The accelerometer is attached to the vibrating solid body Spring k Mass M Dashpot with damping C Vibrating Solid Body . Ɣ These forces are related to the velocity and acceleration of the moving objects. Ɣ Traditionally an accelerometer is used to measure such forces.

. V(t) and the acceleration Į(t) may be obtained by the following derivatives: 2 dy(t) dy(t) d y(t) V(t)= and α(t)= dt dt = dt2 Ɣ The associated dynamic force of induced by the moving solid is thus obtained by using the Newton’s law. t. dashpot. and even the proof mass need to be found. F(t) = M Į(t).Microaccelerometers-Cont’d The accelerometer is attached to the vibrating solid body Ɣ The instantaneous displacement of the mass y(t) induced by the attached moving solid Spring k body is measured and recorded with respect Mass to time. M Dashpot with damping C Vibrating Solid Body Ɣ The associated velocity. in which M = the mass of the moving solid. Ƈ Alternative substitutes for the coil spring.e. Ƈ In miniaturizing the accelerometers to the micro-scale. there is no room for the coil spring and the dashpot for damping on the vibrating mass. i.

M Constraint Base Vibrating Base In this design: Cantilever beam = coil spring. (1) The cantilever beam accelerometer: Silicon Cantilever Beam Piezoresistor Casing Mass. . Surrounding viscous fluid = dashpot for damping of the proof mass The movement of the proof mass is carried out by the attached piezoresistor.Microaccelerometers-Cont’d Ɣ There are two types micro accelerometers available.

Two end tethers = springs Surrounding air = dashpot Stationary electrodes Moving electrode Ɣ The movement of the proof mass is carried out by measuring the change of capacitances between the pairs of electrodes.Microaccelerometers-Cont’d (2) Balanced force micro accelerometer: Ɣ This is the concept used in the “air-bag” deployment sensor in automobiles Ɣ In this design: Plate beam = proof mass. .

any rotation at the rate ȍ can be related to the induced Coriolis force Fc by the following expression: r r r Ÿ z Ÿ z F c= 2mvxΩ x y x V Fc y where m = the mass of the y F V c y moving solid x x z z The sense and direction of the (a) (b) vectorial quantities in the above expression are illustrated to the Ÿ z Ÿ z right x Fc x V y y Ɣ Gyroscopes can thus be used y V y Fc as compass in self-correction x x navigation systems for ships z z and aircraft. For a moving solid with a linear velocity v. Microgyroscopes Gyroscope is a form of accelerometer that measures angular rotation rates. (c) . space crafts. The change of the rotational speed (ȍ) of a solid can induce Coriolis force (Fc). and (d) Segway human transport.

as well as to sense and measure the rate of rotation of the gyroscope. . Microgyroscope Structure Microgyroscopes are attached to the moving solid structure. Like microaccelerometers. y Gyro Frame x-Position y-Spring for Force Measurements Resonator for Linear Motion Generation Proof x-Spring x x Mass y-Position y The induced Colioris forces are used to self-regulate the navigation of the moving structures. microgyroscopes use comb-drive actuators and beam or tether springs to actuate the motion of the proof mass.