Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 1-31-1995

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering - (Ph.D.)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Kenneth Sohn

Second Advisor

Roy H. Cornely

Third Advisor

James M. Grow

Fourth Advisor

Durgamadhab Misra

Fifth Advisor

Marek Sosnowski


Microfabricated threshold accelerometers were successfully designed and fabricated following a careful analysis of the electrical, mechanical, and fabrication issues inherent to micron-sized accelerometers. A uniform cantilever beam was chosen because of the simplicity of design and fabrication. New models for the electrostatic force exerted on the cantilever beam were developed and calculations were made that accurately predicted the electrical characteristics of the accelerometer. The calculations also provided design guidelines for optimizing the accelerometer dimensions. Computer simulation demonstrated that the error of the electrostatic force, calculated using the most accurate model, was within 2% of the actual force which was obtained by integrating the closed formula, through the bent beam curvature, for device parameters designed to detect an acceleration of 50 g. Conversely, it was shown that the widely used conventional parallel plate model had an error of approximately 90%.

Novel surface micromachining process steps were successfully developed to fabricate the cantilever beam accelerometers. Sputter deposited tantalum silicide and commercially available spin-on-glass were used as a structural layer and a sacrificial layer, respectively. The dependence of resistivity, crystalline structure, Young's modulus, and hardness of the tantalum silicide films on the annealing temperatures were measured. These results were employed to design accelerometers that were successfully operated. Excluding the metallization steps, only two masks and four photolithography steps were required. However, both positive and negative photoresists had to be utilized. NJIT's standard photolithography steps were used for positive photoresist; however for the negative photoresist a specially developed multi-puddle process was used to obtain 4 micron resolution.

Electrostatic attraction tests, of accelerometers, were performed using the Keithley current-voltage measurement system. These tests used deflection voltages ranging from 2.2 to 37.0 volts, corresponding to threshold acceleration levels from 580 to 18,500 g. Nearly 70 percent of the threshold voltage results fell within the expected error limits set by the accuracy of the device dimensions when processing tolerances were taken into account including the thickness variation caused by 8% uncertainty in the buffered HF etch rate of tantalum silicide. Some accelerometers were closed and opened 3 times without failure. The accelerometers tended to break after 3 times of operation and this was attributed to the welding of contacts. Centrifuge acceleration tests of accelerometers were carried out in a specially designed centrifuge in an acceleration range of 282 to 11,200 g. Nearly 80 percent of the threshold acceleration results fell within the expected error limits set by the accuracy of the device dimensions when processing tolerances were taken into account.



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