Deep collapse mode capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers
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Capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUTs) are suspended microelectromechanical membrane structures with a moving top electrode and a rigid substrate electrode. The membrane is actuated by electrical signals applied between the electrodes, resulting in radiated pressure waves. CMUTs have several advantages over traditional piezoelectric transducers such as their wider bandwidth and microfabrication methodology. CMUTs as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), are fabricated using CMOS compatible processes and suitable for batch fabrication. Low cost production of large amount of CMUTs can be fabricated using already established integrated circuit (IC) technology infrastructure. Contrary to piezoelectrics, fabricating large 2-D arrays populated with transducer elements using CMUTs is low-cost. The technological challenges of CMUTs regarding the fabrication and integration issues were solved during the past 15 years, and their successful operation has been demonstrated in many applications. However, commercialization of CMUTs is still an overdue passion for CMUT community. The bandwidth of the CMUTs are inherently superior to their piezoelectric rivals due to the nature of the suspended membrane structure, however, their power output capability must be improved to achieve superior signal-to-noise ratio and penetration depth. In this thesis, we gave a comprehensive discussion about the physics and functionality of CMUTs and showed both theoretically and experimentally that their power outputs can be increased substantially. Using the conventional uncollapsed mode of CMUTs, where the suspended membrane vibrates freely, the lumped displacement of the membrane is limited. Limited displacement, unfortunately, limits the power output of the CMUT. However, a larger lumped displacement is possible in the collapsed state, where the membrane gets in contact with the substrate. By controlling the movement of the membrane in this state, the power output of the CMUTs can be increased. We derived the analytical expressions for the profile of a circular CMUT membrane in both uncollapsed and collapsed states. Using the profiles, we calculated the forces acting on the membrane and the energy radiated to the medium during an applied electrical pulse. We showed that the radiated energy can be increased drastically by utilizing the nonlinear forces on the membrane, well beyond the collapse voltage. Using the analytical expressions, we developed a nonlinear electrical equivalent circuit model that can be used to simulate the mechanical behavior of a transmitting CMUT under any electrical excitation. Furthermore, the model can handle different membrane dimensions and material properties. It can predict the membrane movement in the collapsed state as well as in the uncollapsed state. In addition, it predicts the hysteretic snap-back behavior of CMUTs, when the electric potential across a collapsed membrane is decreased. The nonlinear equivalent circuit was simulated using SPICE circuit simulator, and the accuracy of the model was tested using finite element method (FEM) simulations. Better than 3% accuracy is achieved for the static deflection of a membrane as a function of applied DC voltage. On the other hand, the pressure output of a CMUT under large signal excitation is predicted within 5% accuracy. Using the developed model, we explained the dynamics of a CMUT membrane. Based on our physical understanding, we proposed a new mode of operation, the deep collapse mode, in order to generate high power acoustic pulses with large bandwidth (>100% fractional) at a desired center frequency. We showed both by simulation (FEM and equivalent circuit) and by experiments that the deep collapse mode increases the output pressure of a CMUT, substantially. The experiments were performed on CMUTs fabricated at Bilkent University by a sacrificial release process. Larger than 3.5 MPa peak-to-peak acoustic pulses were measured on CMUT surface with more than 100% fractional bandwidth around 7 MHz using an electrical pulse amplitude of 160 Volts. Furthermore, we optimized the deep collapse mode in terms of CMUT dimensions and parameters of the applied electrical pulse, i.e., amplitude, rise and fall times, pulse width and polarity. The experimental results were compared to dynamic FEM and equivalent circuit simulations. We concluded that the experimental results are in good agreement with the simulations. We believe that CMUTs, with their high transmit power capability in the deep collapse mode can become a strong competitor to piezoelectrics.
KeywordsCapacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducers
Deflection of circular plates
Sacrificial release process