Spiral-Shaped Piezoelectric MEMS Cantilever Array for Fully Implantable Hearing Systems

Micromachines (Basel). 2017 Oct 18;8(10):311. doi: 10.3390/mi8100311.


Fully implantable, self-powered hearing aids with no external unit could significantly increase the life quality of patients suffering severe hearing loss. This highly demanding concept, however, requires a strongly miniaturized device which is fully implantable in the middle/inner ear and includes the following components: frequency selective microphone or accelerometer, energy harvesting device, speech processor, and cochlear multielectrode. Here we demonstrate a low volume, piezoelectric micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) cantilever array which is sensitive, even in the lower part of the voice frequency range (300⁻700 Hz). The test array consisting of 16 cantilevers has been fabricated by standard bulk micromachining using a Si-on-Insulator (SOI) wafer and aluminum nitride (AlN) as a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) and biocompatible piezoelectric material. The low frequency and low device footprint are ensured by Archimedean spiral geometry and Si seismic mass. Experimentally detected resonance frequencies were validated by an analytical model. The generated open circuit voltage (3⁻10 mV) is sufficient for the direct analog conversion of the signals for cochlear multielectrode implants.

Keywords: Archimedean spiral; aluminum nitride (AlN); artificial basilar membrane; cochlear implant; energy harvesting; finite element analysis; frequency selectivity; micro-electromechanical system (MEMS); piezoelectric cantilever.