Capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (cMUT) technology has been recognized as an attractive alternative to the more traditional piezoelectric transducer technology in medical ultrasound imaging for several years now. There are mainly two reasons for the interest in this technology: Micromachining is derived from the integrated circuit technology and therefore shares the well-known advantages and experience of it. Also, capacitive transduction using thin membranes has fundamental superiorities over the piezoelectric transduction mechanism such as wide frequency bandwidth.
Capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers are essentially capacitor cells where the two plates of the capacitor, the membrane and the substrate, are separated with a vacuum sealed cavity. Typically, a cMUT is made of many micro-scale capacitor cells operating in parallel. This paper describes a new fabrication technique for building cMUTs which is called the wafer-bonding method. In this method, the cavity and the membrane are defined on separate wafers and brought together by wafer-bonding in vacuum. The wafer-bonding method has several advantages over the traditional sacrificial release method of cMUT fabrication. It allows greater flexibility in the cMUT design which means better device performance. It reduces the number of process steps, device turn-around time, and increases the overall uniformity, reliability. and repeatability. Device examples of one-dimensional and two-dimensional arrays designed to work in the 1 to 50 MHz range with 100% fractional bandwidth highlight the advantages of this method, and show that cMUT technology is indeed the better candidate for next generation ultrasonic imaging arrays.