We have designed, fabricated, and characterized two-dimensional 16x16-element capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) arrays. The CMUT array elements have a 250-μm pitch, and when tested in immersion, have a 5 MHz center frequency and 99% fractional bandwidth. The fabrication process is based on standard silicon micromachining techniques and therefore has the advantages of high yield, low cost, and ease of integration. The transducers have a Si3N4 membrane and are fabricated on a 400-μm thick silicon substrate. A low parasitic capacitance through-wafer via connects each CMUT element to a flip-chip bond pad on the back side of the wafer. Each through wafer via is 20 μm in diameter and 400 μm deep. The interconnects form metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) junctions with the surrounding high-resistivity silicon substrate to establish isolation and to reduce parasitic capacitance. Each through-wafer via has less than 0.06 pF of parasitic capacitance. We have investigated a Au-In flip-chip bonding process to connect the 2D CMUT array to a custom integrated circuit (IC) with transmit and receive electronics. To develop this process, we fabricated fanout structures on silicon, and flip-chip bonded these test dies to a flat surface coated with gold. The average series resistance per bump is about 3 Ohms, and 100% yield is obtained for a total of 30 bumps.
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.
Applications of ultrasonic imaging in fields such as dermatology,
ophthalmology, and cardiovascular medicine require very high
resolution. Limitations in existing transducer technologies inhibit
the development of high-frequency arrays, which would allow the use of
dynamic focusing and enable higher frame rates. As an alternative,
capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) technology,
using integrated circuit fabrication techniques, can provide arrays
with the small dimensions required for high-frequency operation. We
have designed and fabricated several linear and ring arrays of CMUTs
to operate in the 10 to 50 MHz range. These new arrays are made with
the wafer bonding process. The ring arrays in particular demonstrate
the feasibility of thinning the transducer to aid packaging in
intravascular applications. This study shows that CMUTs can be made
for high-frequency operation. Both transducers for use in
conventional and collapse-mode operation have been designed and
characterized. The results demonstrate that CMUT is an appropriate
technology for building high-frequency arrays. A linear array of
high-voltage pulser and amplifier circuits has also been designed for
use with an array of CMUTs to enable real-time imaging applications.
Pulse-echo results from the sixteen-channel array have been
Progress made in the development of a miniature real-time volumetric ultrasound imaging system is presented. This system is targeted for use in a 5-mm endoscopic channel and will provide real-time, 30-mm deep, volumetric images. It is being developed as a clinically useful device, to demonstrate a means of integrating the front-end electronics with the transducer array, and to demonstrate the advantages of the capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) technology for medical imaging. Presented here is the progress made towards the initial implementation of this system, which is based on a two-dimensional, 16x16 CMUT array. Each CMUT element is 250 um by 250 um and has a 5 MHz center frequency. The elements are connected to bond pads on the back side of the array with 400-um long through-wafer interconnects. The transducer array is flip-chip bonded to a custom-designed integrated circuit that comprises the front-end electronics. The result is that each transducer element is connected to a dedicated pulser and low-noise preamplifier. The pulser generates 25-V, 100-ns wide, unipolar pulses. The preamplifier has an approximate transimpedance gain of 500 kOhm and 3-dB bandwidth of 10 MHz. In the first implementation of the system, one element at a time can be selected for transmit and receive and thus synthetic aperture images can be generated. In future implementations, 16 channels will be active at a given time. These channels will connect to an FPGA-based data acquisition system for real-time image reconstruction.
Silicon micromachining techniques permit batch fabrication of
microphones that are small, reproducible, and inexpensive. However, many such sensors have limited bandwidth or are too fragile to be used in a humid, wet, or dusty outdoor environment. Microphones using capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) membranes and radio frequency (RF) detection overcome some of the problems associated with conventional micromachined microphones. CMUT membranes can be vacuum-sealed and still withstand atmospheric pressure and submersion in water. In addition, the membrane mechanical response is very flat from dc up to hundreds of kilohertz. A very sensitive RF detection scheme is necessary to detect the small changes in membrane displacement that result from utilizing smaller membranes. In this paper, we present the theory and recent experimental results of RF detection with CMUT membranes. Measurements of a sensor with 1-mm2 area demonstrate a flat output response of the acoustic sensor from a fraction of 1 Hz to over 100 kHz, with a sensitivity at 1 kHz of 65 dB/Pa in a 1-Hz noise bandwidth.