Micromachined in-plane acoustic pressure gradient sensors
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This work presents the fabrication, modeling, and characterization of two first-generation acoustic in-plane pressure gradient sensors. The first is a micromachined piezoelectric microphone. The microphone structure consists of a semi-rigid beam structure that rotates about torsional pivots in response to in-plane pressure gradients across the length of the beam. The rotation of the beam structure is transduced by piezoelectric cantilevers, which deflect when the beam structure rotates. Sensors with both 10 and 20-μm-thick beam structures are presented. An analytical model and multi-mode, multi-port network model utilizing finite-element analysis for parameter extraction are presented and compared to acoustic sensitivity measurements. Directivity measurements are interpreted in terms of the multi-mode model. A noise model for the sensor and readout electronics is presented and compared to measurements. The second sensor is a capacitive sensor which is comprised of two vacuum-sealed, pistons coupled to each other by a pivoting beam. The use of a pivoting beam can, in principle, enable high rotational compliance to in-plane small-signal acoustic pressure gradients, while resisting piston collapse against large background atmospheric pressure. A design path towards vacuum-sealed, surface micromachined broadband microphones is a motivation to explore the sensor concept. Fabrication of surface micromachined prototypes is presented, followed by finite element modeling and experimental confirmation of successful vacuum-sealing. Dynamic frequency response measurements are obtained using broadband electrostatic actuation and confirm a first fundamental rocking mode near 250 kHz. Successful reception of airborne ultrasound in air at 130 kHz is also demonstrated, and followed by a discussion of design paths toward improve signal-to-noise ratio beyond that of the initial prototypes presented. A method of localizing sound sources is demonstrated using the piezoelectric sensor. The localization method utilizes the multiple-port nature of the sensor to simultaneously extract the pressure gradient and pressure magnitude components of the incoming acoustic signal. An algorithm for calculating the sound source location from the pressure gradient and pressure magnitude measurement is developed. The method is verified by acoustic measurements performed at 2 kHz.