Simulation and Fabrication of an Ultra-Low Power Miniature Microbridge Thermal Conductivity Gas Sensor

Alireza Mahdavifar, Ricardo Aguilar, Zhengchun Peng, Peter J. Hesketh, Melvin Findlay, Joseph R. Stetter, Gary W. Hunter
2014 Journal of the Electrochemical Society  
A miniature, ultra-low power, sensitive, microbridge-based thermal conductivity gas sensor has been developed. The batch fabrication of the sensors was realized by CMOS compatible processes and surface micromachining techniques. Doped polysilicon was used as the structural material of the bridge with critical dimension of 500 nm. A model of the microbridge was simulated in COMSOL that couples electrical and thermal physics together and includes minimal simplifications. Modeling results shows
more » ... ng results shows that the majority of heat is transferred via conduction through the gas gap under the bridge. Heat loss from constant voltage application was observed to be a function of the thermal conductivity of the gas ambient, resulting in different magnitude of resistance change. Maximum temperature occurs at the center of the bridge and could be as high as 800 K. Modeling results coincide with experimental data in predicting resistance changes. The sensor was tested with nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and helium. The response of the sensor to the mixtures of helium fractions in nitrogen was tested. We demonstrated that the sensitivity for helium in nitrogen was 0.34 m /ppm when operated at 3.6 V supplies (at power level of 4.3 mW). With a Wheatstone bridge with ac excitation and a lock-in amplifier the sensor limit of detection was ∼700 ppm helium in nitrogen. The stability of the sensor was excellent achieving over 30 billion measurements before failure.
doi:10.1149/2.032404jes fatcat:33rrghiewffark7covrbrrnxyu