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Dec 8th, 2010
Micro and Nanoelectromechanical Systems: A new approach for low cost 6D inertial sensor
We are presenting a novel approach for very low cost 6D inertial sensor. This concept is based on the idea to mix on same device MEMS and NEMS technologies.
Fig 1: Concept of the M&NEMS accelerometer: In-plane acceleration causes the mass to rotate around the rotating shaft that applies an axial stress in the NEMS suspended gage. This stress is amplified by a lever arm effect induced by the design (amplification x30), and also by the very small section of the gage increased by thinned suspended gage (magnification x5)
Fig 2: Concept of the M&NEMS out-plane accelerometer. In that configuration, a vertical acceleration causes the mass to rotate around the hinges. This rotation applies an axial stress in the NEMS suspended gage (as the gage is thinner than the mass). As for the in-plane case, this stress is amplified by a lever arm effect.
Nevertheless, this size reduction has major impacts on inertial sensor, in particular with regard to the performance: Reducing the seismic mass has a direct impact on the sensitivity, and lowers the nominal capacitance, with consequences on signal to noise ratio. To overcome these limitations, a new concept is proposed mixing micro and nanoscale structures, thus named M&NEMS. The basic idea is to combine on a same device a thick MEMS layer for the inertial mass, with a thin and narrow NEMS part to realize a suspended strain gage. A high sensitivity can be obtained due to the very high stress concentration induced by the very small cross-section of the silicon nanowire gage and also by the lever arm effect of the accelerometers and gyrometers designs (see Fig. 1). The two thicknesses of the M&NEMS approach offer also the ability to have on a same chip an in-plane and out-of-plane detection of the inertial mass movement (see Fig. 2). It means that with this concept and technology, inertial sensors can be integrated in less than 1 mm2 for 3D-accelerometer and less than 2.5 mm2 for the 3D-gyrometer.
Fig 4: Electrical characterization of a 50g accelerometer (relative variation of the gage resistance vs acceleration).
A focus on the gage lets clearly appear the MEMS inertial mass of 15µm thick, and the sub-µm gage that has a section of 0.25x0.25µm2. The 6 mask levels of the M&NEMS accelero and gyro technology will be detailed in the presentation (Fig. 7). This process is based on a SOI technology where the NEMS part is manufactured in the thin silicon active layer. The MEMS part is defined within a 15µm silicon epitaxial layer. The electrical characterizations of these two kinds of sensors are still in progress, but so far, all the measured parameters are in perfect agreement with the simulations.
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