Molecular electronic transducer-based seismometer and accelerometer fabricated with micro-electro-mechanical systems techniques
This thesis presents approaches to develop micro seismometers and accelerometers based on molecular electronic transducers (MET) technology using MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) techniques. MET is a technology applied in seismic instrumentation that proves highly beneficial to planetary seismology. It consists of an electrochemical cell that senses the movement of liquid electrolyte between electrodes by converting it to the output current. MET seismometers have advantages of high sensitivity, low noise floor, small size, absence of fragile mechanical moving parts and independence on the direction of sensitivity axis. By using MEMS techniques, a micro MET seismometer is developed with inter-electrode spacing close to 1μm, which improves the sensitivity of fabricated device to above 3000 V/(m/s^2) under operating bias of 600 mV and input acceleration of 400 μG (G=9.81m/s^2) at 0.32 Hz. The lowered hydrodynamic resistance by increasing the number of channels improves the self-noise to -127 dB equivalent to 44 nG/√Hz at 1 Hz. An alternative approach to build the sensing element of MEMS MET seismometer using SOI process is also presented in this thesis. The significantly increased number of channels is expected to improve the noise performance. Inspired by the advantages of combining MET and MEMS technologies on the development of seismometer, a low frequency accelerometer utilizing MET technology with post-CMOS-compatible fabrication processes is developed. In the fabricated accelerometer, the complicated fabrication of mass-spring system in solid-state MEMS accelerometer is replaced with a much simpler post-CMOS-compatible process containing only deposition of a four-electrode MET structure on a planar substrate, and a liquid inertia mass of an electrolyte droplet encapsulated by oil film. The fabrication process does not involve focused ion beam milling which is used in the micro MET seismometer fabrication, thus the cost is lowered. Furthermore, the planar structure and the novel idea of using an oil film as the sealing diaphragm eliminate the complicated three-dimensional packaging of the seismometer. The fabricated device achieves 10.8 V/G sensitivity at 20 Hz with nearly flat response over the frequency range from 1 Hz to 50 Hz, and a low noise floor of 75 μG/√Hz at 20 Hz.