Experimental characterization of collapse-mode CMUT operation

IEEE Trans Ultrason Ferroelectr Freq Control. 2006 Aug;53(8):1513-23. doi: 10.1109/tuffc.2006.1665109.


This paper reports on the experimental characterization of collapse-mode operation of capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUTs). CMUTs are conventionally operated by applying a direct current (DC) bias voltage less than the collapse voltage of the membrane, so that the membrane is deflected toward the bottom electrode. In the conventional regime, there is no contact between the membrane and the substrate; the maximum alternating current (AC) displacement occurs at the center of the membrane. In collapse-mode operation, the DC bias voltage is first increased beyond the collapse voltage, then reduced without releasing the collapsed membrane. In collapse-mode operation, the center of the membrane is always in contact with the substrate. In the case of a circular membrane, the maximum AC displacement occurs along the ring formed between the center and the edge of the membrane. The experimental characterization presented in this paper includes impedance measurements in air, pulse-echo experiments in immersion, and one-way optical displacement measurements in immersion for both conventional and collapse-mode operations. A 205-microm x 205-microm 2-D CMUT array element composed of circular silicon nitride membranes is used in the experiments. In pulse-echo experiments, a custom integrated circuit (IC) comprising a pulse driver, a transmit/receive switch, a wideband low-noise preamplifier, and a line driver is used. By reducing the parasitic capacitance, the use of a custom IC enables pulse-echo measurements at high frequencies with a very small transducer. By comparing frequency response and efficiency of the transducer in conventional and collapse regimes, experimental results show that a collapsed membrane can be used to generate and detect ultrasound more efficiently than a membrane operated in the conventional mode. Furthermore, the center frequency of the collapsed membrane can be changed by varying the applied DC voltage. In this study, the center frequency of a collapsed transducer in immersion is shown to vary from 20 MHz to 28 MHz with applied DC bias; the same transducer operates at 10 MHz in the conventional mode. In conventional mode, the maximum peak-to-peak pressure is 370 kPa on the transducer surface for a 40-ns, 25-V unipolar pulse excitation. In collapse mode, a 25-ns, 25-V unipolar pulse generates 590 kPa pressure at the surface of the transducer.