Surface micromachined MEMS variable capacitor with two-cavity for energy harvesting
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In this research, a novel MEMS variable capacitor with two capacitive cavities for energy harvesting was developed that use the wasted energy associated with undesirable mechanical vibrations to power microelectronic sensors and actuators widely found in structures and systems surrounding us. The harvested power, though very small, can have a profound effect on the usage of microsensors. First, the self-powered sensors will no longer require regular battery maintenance. Second, the self-powered chip is a liberating technology. On a circuit board, it can simplify the connection. On a commercial jet, the sensors can greatly simplify cabling. The design, fabrication, modeling and complete set of characterization of MEMS variable capacitors with two-cavity are presented in details in this thesis. The MEMS variable capacitors are unique in its two-cavity design and use of electroplated nickel as the main structural material. The device consists of 2x2 mm² movable capacitive proof mass plates with a thickness of 30 [mu]m suspended between two fixed electrodes forming two vertical capacitors. When the capacitance increases for one cavity, it decreases for the other. This allows using both up and down directions to generate energy. The suspended movable plates are supported by four serpentine springs with a thickness of 3-5 [mu]m that are attached to the address lines on a silicon substrate only at the anchors' points which is made of electroplated nickel. The serpentine suspension beams are made with a width, thickness and total length (four serpentine turns) of 15 [mu]m, 5 [mu]m and 1485 [mu]m. Five gold stoppers with height of 2-4 [mu]m were electroplated on the fixed plates to prevent snap-down of the movable plates by overwhelming electrostatic force. SiO2 and Si3N4 thin layers were patterned on the fixed plates to insulate the stoppers and enhance the dielectric property of capacitive cavities. The MEMS variable capacitor with two-cavity has been designed and modeled using MEMS CAD tool and COMSOL Multi-Phys
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