High-resolution MEMS inertial sensor combining large-displacement buckling behaviour with integrated capacitive readout

Microsyst Nanoeng. 2019 Dec 16;5:60. doi: 10.1038/s41378-019-0105-y. eCollection 2019.


Commercially available gravimeters and seismometers can be used for measuring Earth's acceleration at resolution levels in the order of ng Hz (where g represents earth's gravity) but they are typically high-cost and bulky. In this work the design of a bulk micromachined MEMS device exploiting non-linear buckling behaviour is described, aiming for ng Hz resolution by maximising mechanical and capacitive sensitivity. High mechanical sensitivity is obtained through low structural stiffness. Near-zero stiffness is achieved through geometric design and large deformation into a region where the mechanism is statically balanced or neutrally stable. Moreover, the device has an integrated capacitive comb transducer and makes use of a high-resolution impedance readout ASIC. The sensitivity from displacement to a change in capacitance was maximised within the design and process boundaries given, by making use of a trench isolation technique and exploiting the large-displacement behaviour of the device. The measurement results demonstrate that the resonance frequency can be tuned from 8.7 Hz-18.7 Hz, depending on the process parameters and the tilt of the device. In this system, which combines an integrated capacitive transducer with a sensitivity of 2.55 aF/nm and an impedance readout chip, the theoretically achievable system resolution equals 17.02 ng Hz . The small size of the device and the use of integrated readout electronics allow for a wide range of practical applications for data collection aimed at the internet of things.

Keywords: Electrical and electronic engineering; Engineering; Nanoscience and technology.