**HIGH PERFORMANCE SEALED-GAP CAPACITIVE MICROPHONE WITH VARIOUS GAP GEOMETRIES**

JP2016072949 | CONNECTION TYPE ELECTRET LOUDSPEAKER |

JPS6315125 | ACCELERATION SENSOR |

JP2001036994 | ELECTROSTATIC TYPE ELECTROACOUSTIC TRANSDUCER |

ATALAR, Abdullah (Bilkent University, Bilkent, Ankara, 06800, TR)

TASDELEN, Akif Sinan (Bilkent University, BASTA 6. Cadde No:6Bilkent, Ankara, 06800, TR)

YILMAZ, Mehmet (UNAM, Bilkent, Ankara, 06800, TR)

KOYMEN, Itir (Bilkent University, BASTA 6. Cadde No:6Bilkent, Ankara, 06800, TR)

*;*

**H04R19/01***;*

**B81C1/00***;*

**H04R19/00***;*

**H04R19/04**

**H04R31/00**CLAIMS What is claimed is: 1. A microphone system for receiving sound waves, the microphone system comprising: a back plate; a radiation plate having a thickness t the gap having a regular convex polygon shape with a number n > 4 sides, the gap having an apothem of length r a first electrode, either the first electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the back plate proximate to the gap, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the back plate; a second electrode, either the second electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the radiation plate, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the radiation plate; a first insulator layer of thickness tuand relative permittivity e a power source; and a microphone controller configured to use the power source to drive the microphone at an operating point, wherein F wherein and wherein the apothem length r 2. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the gap comprises a hole machined into the substrate, and the back plate comprises a portion of the substrate forming a floor of the gap. 3. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the apothem length r 4. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the first electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the back plate on the side of the back plate proximate to the gap, and wherein the second electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the radiation plate on the side of the radiation plate proximate to the gap. 5. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the sound waves are human- audible and the gap contains a vacuum. 6. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the radiation plate, or both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the back plate, or the first insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the radiation plate and the second insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the back plate. 7. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the equivalent disc gap radius a 8. The microphone system of claim 1, further comprising an electret configured to increase an effective bias voltage of the first and second electrodes. 9. The microphone system of claim 1 , wherein the radiation plate comprises a selected solid material suitable for fabrication of a MEMS microphone; and wherein the particular selected solid material does not affect the optimum sensitivity, and does not affect a corresponding gap height or radiation plate thickness. 10. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the equivalent disc gap radius a 11. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the operating point is a selected operating point, the selected operating point being selected by selecting up to three of the following: the equivalent disc gap radius a 12. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein multiple ones of the microphone systems are electrically connected in parallel. 13. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein the radiation plate comprises of one or multiple layers of a single material or multiple layers of a multitude of different materials, for which an equivalent single layer Young’s modulus, Y 14. The microphone system of claim 1, wherein a a 0.9t wherein t trn_n £ 36tge n 7.2 for 0.2 < t 0.93t wherein t Peb Peg 0.9961 - 1.0468 ^ + 0.06972 - 0.25 + 0.01148 Fpeg / \Fpeg/ wherein Y 15. The microphone system of claim 14, wherein the normalized gap radius < t 16. A microphone system for receiving sound waves, the microphone system comprising: a back plate; a radiation plate having a thickness t a first electrode, either the first electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the back plate proximate to the gap, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the back plate; a second electrode, either the second electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the radiation plate, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the radiation plate; a first insulator layer of thickness tu and relative permittivity e a power source; and a microphone controller configured to use the power source to drive the microphone at an operating point, wherein F wherein and wherein the pair elliptic gap minor radius ct 17. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the gap comprises a hole machined into the substrate, and the back plate comprises a portion of the substrate forming a floor of the gap. 18. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the first electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the back plate on the side of the back plate proximate to the gap, and wherein the second electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the radiation plate on the side of the radiation plate proximate to the gap. 19. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the sound waves are human- audible and the gap contains a vacuum. 20. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the radiation plate, or both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the back plate, or the first insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the radiation plate and the second insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the back plate. 21. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the pair elliptic gap minor radius a 22. The microphone system of claim 16, further comprising an electret configured to increase an effective bias voltage of the first and second electrodes. 23. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the radiation plate comprises a selected solid material suitable for fabrication of a MEMS microphone; and wherein the particular selected solid material does not affect the optimum sensitivity, and does not affect a corresponding gap height or radiation plate thickness. 24. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein a is the radius of a seed circle of an ellipse, and p where and 25. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the operating point is a selected operating point, the selected operating point being selected by selecting up to three of the following: the pair elliptic gap minor radius a 26. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein multiple ones of the microphone system are electrically connected in parallel. 27. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein the radiation plate comprises of one or multiple layers of a single material or multiple layers of a multitude of different materials, for which an equivalent single layer Young’s modulus, Y 28. The microphone system of claim 16, wherein a a 0.9t wherein t t 8r 0.93t and wherein and and wherein e wherein t Peb ge_n Peg Fpeb M " Peg wherein Y 29. The microphone system of claim 28, wherein the normalized gap radius a function of — , and g is a function which is the first derivative of tge .9961- 1.0468 0.06972 0.25 fe) CL t 30. A microphone system for receiving sound waves, the microphone system comprising: a back plate; a radiation plate having a thickness t a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap with minimum of four sides; a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap where r a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap where a minor radius of an equivalent ellipse <¾ and where a major radius of an equivalent ellipse <¾ a first electrode, either the first electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the back plate proximate to the gap, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the back plate; a second electrode, either the second electrode being fixedly coupled to a side of the radiation plate, or the first electrode comprising or contained within the radiation plate; a first insulator layer of thickness tu and relative permittivity e a power source; and a microphone controller configured to use the power source to drive the microphone at an operating point, wherein F wherein and wherein the pair equivalent ellipse minor radius <¾ 31. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the gap comprises a hole machined into the substrate, and the back plate comprises a portion of the substrate forming a floor of the gap. 32. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the first electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the back plate on the side of the back plate proximate to the gap, and wherein the second electrode covers at least 80% of the area of the radiation plate on the side of the radiation plate proximate to the gap. 33. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the sound waves are human- audible and the gap contains a vacuum. 34. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the radiation plate, or both insulator layers are fixedly coupled to the back plate, or the first insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the radiation plate and the second insulator layer is fixedly coupled to the back plate. 35. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the pair equivalent ellipse minor radius <¾ 36. The microphone system of claim 30, further comprising an electret configured to increase an effective bias voltage of the first and second electrodes. 37. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the radiation plate comprises a selected solid material suitable for fabrication of a MEMS microphone; and wherein the particular selected solid material does not affect the optimum sensitivity, and does not affect a corresponding gap height or radiation plate thickness. 38. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein a is the radius of a seed circle of an equivalent ellipse, and p where and 39. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the operating point is a selected operating point, the selected operating point being selected by selecting up to three of the following: the pair equivalent ellipse minor radius <¾qi and equivalent ellipse major radius <¾ 40. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein multiple ones of the microphone system are electrically connected in parallel. 41. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein the radiation plate comprises of one or multiple layers of a single material or multiple layers of a multitude of different materials, for which an equivalent single layer Young’s modulus, Y 42. The microphone system of claim 30, wherein a a 0.9tge_n - 0.72 <a wherein t trn_n £ 36tge n 7.2 for 0.2 < t 0.93t and wherein and and wherein so is a permittivity of free space, Po is a static pressure difference between an ambient and the gap, and VDC_ wherein t Peb Peg wherein Y 43. The microphone system of claim 42, wherein the normalized gap radius a \tge/ tge’ ( 0.9961- 1.0468— + 0.06972 -- 0.25) + c Peg Peg 48 Fpeb Fpeg CL tm„ = (K |

MICROPHONE WITH VARIOUS GAP GEOMETRIES

CROSS REFERENCE

[0001] The present application is a non-provisional of, and claims priority to, U.S. Provisional Pat. App. No. 62/614,897, filed on January 8, 2018; and is a non-provisional of, and claims priority to, U.S. Provisional Pat. App. No. 62/616,424, filed on January 11, 2018; all of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

[0002] The present application relates to capacitive microphones with a sealed gap between the capacitor’s conductive plates, and more particularly to capacitive Micro-machined Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) microphones with a sealed gap for receipt of air-mediated sound.

[0003] Note that the points discussed below may reflect the hindsight gained from the disclosed innovative scope, and are not necessarily admitted to be prior art.

[0004] Microphones in consumer devices generally comprise pressure compensated MEMS microphones and pressure compensated electret microphones. An overview of pressure compensated microphones - that is, microphones which do not have a sealed gap - is provided below.

[0005] Figure 1 schematically shows a cross-section of an example of a pressure compensated MEMS microphone 100. As shown in Figure 1, a pressure compensated MEMS microphone 100 comprises an acoustic sensor 102 fabricated on a semiconductor substrate 104, the acoustic sensor 102 comprising a moveable, suspended membrane 106 (a vibrating plate) and a fixed sensor back plate 108. The back plate 108 is a stiff structure comprising perforations 110 that allow air to easily move through the back plate 108. Both the membrane 106 and the back plate 108 are connected to the substrate 104. The membrane 106 is located between the back plate 108 and the substrate 104, with a cavity 112 (a “gap”) between the membrane 106 and the back plate 108. The perforations 110 enable pressure compensation of the gap 112, that is, they equalize the pressure on each side of the back plate 108. The membrane 106 is suspended over a front chamber 114 formed in the substrate 104.

[0006] The vibrating plate in a microphone can be called a membrane or a radiation plate, depending on the ratio between the radius and thickness of the membrane or radiation plate, as further described with respect to Figure 3.

[0007] The substrate 104 is mounted on a carrier 116, which can be, for example, a lead frame or a printed circuit board. There is also a back chamber 118, which is surrounded by the carrier 116 and an enclosure 120 (e.g., a metal casing). An integrated circuit 122 for charging electrodes attached to the membrane 106 and the back plate 108, and for the interpreting the signal produced by the acoustic sensor 102, is coupled to the membrane 106 and the back plate 108 by wire bonds 124. A soldering pad 126 coupled to the integrated circuit 122 enables external input to and output from (e.g., power and signal, respectively) the microphone 100.

[0008] The membrane 106 is a thin solid structure made of a compliant (not stiff) material, such as a perforated solid material suitable for micromachining, that flexes in response to changes in air pressure caused by sound waves passed by the perforations 110 in the back plate 108. The membrane 106 does not fully seal the gap 112. Also, perforations in the membrane 106 (not shown) increase the membrane’s 106 responsiveness to air-mediated sound waves by reducing membrane 106 stiffness (increasing flexibility), and by helping to equalize pressure on both sides of the membrane 106 (the side facing the back plate 108 and the side facing the substrate 104). As described above, the perforations 110 in the back plate 108 enable pressure compensation of the gap 112. In pressure compensated MEMS microphones 100 (and similarly in pressure compensated electret microphones 200, described below), the air pressure in the gap 112 is equal to the ambient static pressure, that is, the atmospheric pressure (thus the description “pressure compensated”). A pressure compensated gap 112 enables a more flexible membrane 106, because a static pressure difference between the gap-facing and substrate-facing sides of the membrane 106 is reduced. This means that there is effectively no static force against the membrane 106 due to air pressure.

[0009] The“ambient” is the medium (acoustic environment) through which acoustic waves are conducted to intersect a membrane, causing the membrane to vibrate, resulting in a signal being emitted from the microphone. For example, in microphones included in smartphones, the relevant ambient will generally be the atmosphere (air). As used herein, an“airborne” microphone is defined as a microphone for which the primary intended ambient is air.

[00010] Figure 2 schematically shows a cross-section of an example of a pressure compensated electret microphone 200. An electret is a stable dielectric material with a permanently embedded stable electric dipole moment - that is, a permanently polarized piece of dielectric material. An electret microphone is a type of electrostatic capacitor-based microphone which uses an electret, and can thereby avoid using a polarizing power supply (used in a MEMS microphone 100 to apply charge to electrodes).

[00011] As shown in Figure 2, an electret microphone 200 comprises an acoustic sensor 202, which in turn comprises an electret membrane 204 (e.g., a polymer electret membrane 204). A front chamber 206 is located on a front chamber 206 side (a first side) of the electret membrane 204. The front chamber 206 side of the electret membrane is electroded, and is clamped to a metal washer 208 at the electret membrane’s 204 rim. The electret membrane 204 is separated from a back plate 210 to create a gap 212 on a gap 212 side (a second side) of the electret membrane 204. A constant gap 212 height is maintained by, for example, plastic washers 214. The back plate 210 comprises perforations 216 so that the gap 212 is pressure compensated. An amplifying transistor 218 is fixedly coupled to a carrier 220 (e.g., a lead frame or printed circuit board), and the amplifying transistor’s 218 gate pin is coupled by a wire 222 to the back plate 210. The connection between the amplifying transistor 218 and the back plate 210 conveys received signal from the acoustic sensor 202 to the amplifying transistor 218. The amplifying transistor 218 interprets the signal produced by the acoustic sensor 202. The carrier 220 is coupled to the back plate 210 by a casing 224 (e.g., plastic casing). The carrier 220 is also fixedly coupled to a housing 226 (e.g., a metal housing), which holds the carrier 220, the casing 224, and the acoustic sensor 202. This coupling also electrically connects the electret membrane 204 and a source lead 228 of the amplifying transistor 218. A hole 230 in the housing 226, located proximate to the front chamber 206, gives acoustic waves access to the electret membrane 204. The hole 230 and the front chamber 206 are covered by a dust cover 232, which does not seal the electret microphone 200. That is, air, as well as humidity and other contaminants, can access the interior of the electret microphone 200. Contamination can be mitigated, but not prevented, by the dust cover 232. The transistor 218 is located in a back chamber 234. The back chamber 234 is also proximate to the back plate 210 on a side of the back plate 210 distant from the gap 212. To maintain pressure compensation, the back chamber 234 is not sealed. Access to the source lead 224 and a drain lead 236 of the amplifying transistor 218 are provided at an outer surface of the carrier 220 (a surface distant from the back chamber 234) to enable external electrical connections for signal acquisition.

[00012] MEMS microphones 100 and electret microphones 200 detect sound by placing a fixed charge across the gap 112, 212, and measuring voltage variations caused by changes in the capacitance between the membrane 106, 204 and the back plate 108, 206 as a result of the membrane 106, 204 flexing in response to sound waves. MEMS microphones 100 apply the fixed charge using a bias voltage, and electret microphones 200 induce a fixed charge using an electret.

[00013] Typically, MEMS microphones 100 used in mobile phones are biased at 10 volts to 14 volts direct current (DC), generated using voltage doubler circuits to produce the appropriate voltage from a battery supply outputting 1.8 volts to 3.6 volts.

[00014] Typical electrets used in microphones are made of dielectric materials such as polymers used as membrane 204 material, or silicon oxide or silicon nitride in the back plate 210. Electrets can trap electrical charge in their bulk material or on their surface. Circuits including an electret are generally terminated using a terminating impedance. When the surfaces of an electret layer are properly electrically terminated, the trapped charge can yield, for example, a total charge corresponding to (which can be modeled as) a bias voltage of 150 to 200 volts polarizing the gap 212.

[00015] As discussed, pressure compensation means that the gap is open to ambient air in order to equalize gap pressure with ambient atmospheric pressure. A pressure compensated gap is therefore vulnerable to contamination by dirt, humidity or other foreign matter carried by the air that moves to and through it. Contamination of the gap can compromise microphone performance due to clogged gap vents, back plate perforations, and/or membrane holes, which cause noise. Membrane hole contamination reduces membrane compliance, which corresponds to a loss in microphone sensitivity. Also, material buildup in the gap can lower gap height, also lowering microphone sensitivity.

[00016] Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is the main competitive performance issue in the commercial microphone market, which encompasses microphones for devices such as smartphones, in-ear headphones and hearing aides. Typically, the SNR of commercial MEMS microphones ranges between 55 and 65 dB for a sensor area of approximately 1 mm ^{2 }. In microphones, SNR is measured when the input acoustic signal level is 94 dBA. The unit dBA refers to A-weighted decibels, which accounts for the human ear’s different perception of loudness at different frequencies.

[00017] SNR is defined as the ratio of: the root-mean-square (rms) voltage across the terminals of the microphone, when the microphone is placed on a rigid baffle and a free field pressure wave of 1 Pa rms amplitude at 1 kHz frequency is incident on the microphone; to the rms voltage across the terminals of the microphone, filtered using A-weighted filters, when the microphone is completely isolated from any sound sources, such as in an anechoic chamber. The sound level at 0 dBA, which corresponds to about 20 pPa rms, is accepted as the hearing threshold of the human ear (though clinically measured threshold levels are much louder). The maximum possible SNR is about 94 dB, because the inherent noise induced by acoustic radiation physics (the radiation resistance, described below, which provides a generally-applicable noise floor) is about 0 dBA in a microphone with 1 mm ^{2 } area.

[00018] A rigid baffle is an infinite, perfectly reflecting surface around the boundary of an acoustic aperture of a microphone. If a microphone is mounted on a rigid baffle, the incoming acoustic wave will create twice the free field pressure on the microphone’s vibrating element that it would in empty space. [00019] Noise in a microphone, which reduces the maximum possible SNR of the microphone, predominantly comes from one of three sources: radiation resistance of the membrane; mechanical losses caused by molecular friction in the material of vibrating parts, and/or by macroscopic friction of mechanical parts in the microphone moving against each other; and in pressure compensated microphones, mechanical losses caused by fluid friction, including the friction of air moving through perforations (holes) in a membrane or substrate, and the squeezed film friction effect in the gap. There can be other losses, such as electrical energy loss from dielectric loss in the insulator layer. Some pressure compensated MEMS microphones have a noise floor of about 30 dBA, with pressure compensation contributing most of this noise. The noise floors in pressure compensated electret microphones are generally higher than in comparable MEMS microphones.

[00020] Radiation resistance is the real component of radiation impedance (a complex number). Radiation impedance relates to Newton’s third law of motion: every action has a reaction of equal magnitude and in the opposite direction. A transmitting acoustic transducer (such as a loudspeaker) applies a force onto the medium (pushes the medium, such as air, to and fro) at its aperture during transmission. The medium also exerts a reaction force on the transducer surface. The reaction force is equal to the product of the velocity of the transducer surface (the aperture) and the radiation impedance. Radiation impedance is a complex number with two components: radiation resistance (the real component) and radiation reactance (the imaginary component). Part of the reaction force, corresponding to the radiation resistance, generates acoustic waves, which radiate out from the aperture into the medium. The energy comprising the radiated acoustic waves (corresponding to the radiation resistance) is lost with respect to the transducer (the transducer does not recover the energy used to create the acoustic waves).

[00021] Acoustic transmission and acoustic reception are reciprocal phenomena. Therefore, radiation impedance is also present in acoustic reception (microphones). Radiation resistance is a source of noise in acoustic reception. The noise generated by radiation resistance is the noise floor of a 100% efficient microphone with no other sources of mechanical or electrical energy loss.

[00022] When an acoustic wave is incident on the microphone membrane, the acoustic field energy is included in the transduction and a force is applied on the membrane surface, which moves the membrane. The reaction force of the membrane, applied onto the medium (the ambient), is equal to the product of the radiation impedance and the velocity of the membrane. The incident acoustic energy is first partly dissipated by the resistive part of the radiation impedance. Remaining energy is then available to the transduction mechanism (that is, acoustic reception in a microphone). Radiation resistance is an energy dissipative factor in transduction, and therefore generates noise during reception.

[00023] The squeeze film effect refers to two consequences of air periodically squeezed between a vibrating membrane and a static substrate: (1) increasing air pressure forces air to escape from the gap through available outlets, e.g. holes, causing friction, which dissipates (loses) energy; and (2) increasing air pressure in the gap increases the temperature of the temporarily compressed (squeezed) air (following Gay-Lussac’s Law), which causes energy loss by converting mechanical energy into heat.

[00024] Some typical integrated commercial MEMS microphones used in mobile phones are operated with a dc bias voltage of 10-14 volts, with an approximately 28-30 dBA noise floor in their audio bandwidth. This amount of self noise corresponds to an SNR of 66 dB or less at the transducer output before pre-amplification, when the incident signal level is 1 Pa. Such commercial MEMS microphones typically have about -38 dB re V/Pa maximum OCRV (open circuit receive voltage) sensitivity.

[00025] A Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducer (CMUT) is a capacitive transducer. CMUTs can be used to transmit and receive ultrasonics. CMUTs have a wide bandwidth in water and in a frequency range near their first (lowest) resonance frequency. Microphones generally have many resonances. At a resonance, the amount of applied force, external pressure or electromechanical force required to induce high-amplitude vibration of the membrane is reduced. Ultrasonic transducers (such as CMUTs) are usually operated near their first resonance frequency. This enables the transducers to be highly sensitive; however, for efficient transmission and/or reception to be maintained, the transducer will have either a narrow operation bandwidth, or increased internal loss and consequent increased noise (lower SNR). Internal loss is power loss, and is the sum of power lost through mechanical and electrical energy loss mechanisms other than radiation resistance.

[00026] In some examples, CMUTs can have a pressure compensated gap, resulting in a compliant radiation plate and a relatively wide bandwidth. In some examples, CMUTs can have a sealed gap, resulting in low internal loss (in some examples, less than their radiation resistance in air). CMUTs are typically characterized as receivers when operated at a resonance frequency, and as microphones when operated off-resonance. A sealed gap can contain a sealed-in gas, or a vacuum (a“vacuum gap”). Internal loss in CMUT transducers is typically small with respect to the noise introduced by radiation resistance - small enough to be difficult to accurately measure. In some examples, losses and radiation impedance in sealed gap airborne CMUTs generate about 0 dBA in the audio bandwidth, which is slightly more than the noise contribution of the CMUT’s radiation resistance in a 1mm ^{2 } microphone operated off-resonance in an audible range (generally, about 10Hz to 20 kHz).

[00027] A pressure compensated MEMS microphone comprising a transducer, sealed membranes and a sealed volume is disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 6,075,867.

[00028] An integrated and programmable microphone bias generation system is described by U.S. Pat. No. 8,288,971.

[00029] An implantable microphone which uses a housing to hermetically seal the microphone is described in U.S. Pat. No. 9,451,375. This microphone compensates for noise artifacts caused by the housing by using two highly compliant parallel membranes, compliance of the membranes being enhanced by respective pressure compensated gaps.

[00030] An implantable microphone which uses a perforated membrane for pressure compensation is described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,955,250. The perforation in the membrane makes the membrane more compliant, and thus increases sensitivity. U.S. Pat. No. 9,560,430 also describes a microphone with a perforated membrane.

[00031] A microphone module which uses vents to enable pressure compensation, and for driving water out of the system, is described by U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 2015/0163572.

[00032] A pressure compensated microphone module for a phone watch that uses a hydrophobic plate covered by an“impermeable” membrane - which allows passage of gasses - to enable pressure compensation, and to keep water out of the microphone, is described by Pat. Pub. No. 2001/0019945.

[00033] Some microphones use hydrophobic and/or oleophobic materials to cover microphone components to protect them from fluids. For example, a microporous composite material containing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is described in Pat. Pub. No. 2014/0083296 for use in filters, vents or protective membranes. PTFE is gas permeable such that it can both be used as a protective membrane and enable pressure compensation. A hydrophobic mesh (umbrella- shaped, covering an acoustic port), is described in U.S. Pat. No. 9,363,589. However, PTFE, hydrophobic mesh, and other methods of “waterproofing” microphones with pressure compensated gaps will generally degrade performance (due to isolation of sound-detection membranes from sound sources), and will fail to protect transducers from water given a relatively small static pressure difference between the external environment (e.g., immersion in water at a depth of a meter) and the gap, or given repeated submersion.

[00034] A MEMS microphone with a piezoelectric (rather than capacitive or electret) membrane, which can be covered by a Parylene film for waterproofing, is described in U.S. Pat. Pub. 2014/0339657. Piezoelectric MEMS microphones are fabricated using different production processes than capacitive microphones.

[00035] The inventors endeavor to disclose new and advantageous approaches to a capacitive MEMS microphone with a sealed gap, and methods for designing such microphones, as further described below.

SUMMARY

[00036] Some preferred embodiments include a microphone system for receiving sound waves, the microphone including a back plate, a radiation plate, first and second electrodes, first and second insulator layers, a power source and a microphone controller. The radiation plate is clamped to the back plate so that there is a hermetically sealed gap between the radiation plate and the back plate. The first electrode is fixedly attached to a side of the back plate proximate to the gap. The second electrode is fixedly attached to a side of the radiation plate. The insulator layers are attached to the back plate and/or the radiation plate, on respective gap sides thereof, so that the insulator layers are between the electrodes. The microphone controller is configured to use the power source to drive the microphone at a selected operating point comprising normalized static mechanical force, bias voltage, and relative bias voltage level.

[00037] Numerous other inventive aspects are also disclosed and claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[00038] The disclosed inventive subject matter will be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, which show important sample embodiments and which are incorporated in the specification hereof by reference, wherein:

[00039] Figure 1 schematically shows a cross-section of a prior art example of a pressure compensated MEMS microphone.

[00040] Figure 2 schematically shows a cross-section of a prior art example of a pressure compensated electret microphone.

[00041] Figure 3 schematically shows an example of a cross section view of a Micromachined Capacitive Microphone (MCM) with an undeflected radiation plate.

[00042] Figure 4 schematically shows an example of a cross section view of a MCM with a depressed radiation plate.

[00043] Figure 5 shows a graph of the relationship between the ratio of the bias voltage to the collapse voltage in a vacuum V _{D }c/V _{r } and the normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }/t _{ge } at the electromechanical equilibrium (the equilibrium point).

[00044] Figure 6 shows a graph of the relationship between normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg } for an MCM.

[00045] Figure 7 shows a lin-log semi-log graph of the relationship between the relevant maximum normalized radiation plate radius-to-thickness ratio

(— ) that enables an MCM to meet the elastic linearity constraint, and tm ·'

normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }- [00046] Figure 8A shows a log-lin semi-log graph of the relationship between normalized minimum relevant gap radius oc _{n min } that enables an MCM to meet the elastic linearity constraint, and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{D }c/Vc-

[00047] Figure 8B shows a log-lin semi-log graph of the relationship between normalized minimum radiation plate thickness t _{m n min } that enables an MCM to meet the elastic linearity constraint, and normalized static mechanical force Fpe _{b }/Fpe _{g }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC.

[00048] Figure 9 shows a semi-log graph of the relationship between normalized Open Circuit Receive Voltage Sensitivity (OCRV) and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC, where parasitic capacitance C _{p } divided by clamped capacitance Co equals zero (C _{p }/Co = 0).

[00049] Figure 10 shows a log-lin semi-log graph of the relationship between normalized input capacitance C _{m n } and normalized static mechanical force Fpe _{b }/Fpe _{g }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC, where the relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio equals the relevant maximum normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) , which enables linearly elastic operation.

[00050] Figure 11 shows a graph of the relationship between normalized Short Circuit Receive Current Sensitivity (SCRC) and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }-

[00051] Figure 12 shows a graph of the relationship between normalized Short Circuit Receive Current Sensitivity (SCRC) per square meter and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC.

[00052] Figure 13 shows a graph of the relationship between relevant normalized minimum gap radius and normalized effective gap height t _{ge-n } for various values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }.

[00053] Figure 14 shows a graph of the relationship between normalized minimum radiation plate thickness t _{m-n }_mm and normalized effective gap height t _{ge-n } for various values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }.

[00054] Figure 15 shows a graph of the relationship between relevant normalized gap radius oc _{n } and normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } for various values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC and various values of the scaling constant K.

[00055] Figure 16 shows a graph of the relationship between normalized radiation plate thickness t _{m n } and normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } for various values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC and various values of the scaling constant K.

[00056] Figure 17 shows an example view comparing multiple gap shapes.

[00057] Figure 18 shows an example view comparing multiple gap shapes.

[00058] Figure 19 shows a graph of the relationships between the minor axis a _{\ } of an ellipse-shaped gap and the radius a of a seed circle gap, between the major axis < _{¾ } of the ellipse-shaped gap and the radius a of the seed circle gap, and between the area of the ellipse-shaped gap and the area of the seed circle gap.

[00059] Figure 20 shows an example view comparing multiple gap shapes.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SAMPLE EMBODIMENTS [00060] The numerous innovative teachings of the present application will be described with particular reference to presently preferred embodiments by way of example, and not of limitation. The present application describes inventive scope, and none of the statements below should be taken as limiting the claims generally.

[00061] The present application discloses new approaches to capacitive MEMS microphones with a sealed gap, and to design of such microphones.

[00062] Some exemplary parameters will be given to illustrate the relations between these and other parameters. However it will be understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art that these values are merely illustrative, and will be modified by scaling of further device generations, and will be further modified to adapt to different materials or architectures if used.

[00063] A capacitive MEMS microphone with a sealed gap is disclosed herein which is preferably an airborne microphone configured for off-resonance operation (described below with respect to Figure 3). Such microphones are referred to herein as Micromachined Capacitive Microphones (MCM).

[00064] The inventors have made the surprising discovery that MCMs can be constructed with gap and vibrating membrane dimensions that result in robust uncollapsed, linearly elastic operation with high sensitivity and little or no self-noise - in some embodiments, an SNR of approximately 94 dBA can be achieved across the audible spectrum! Further, because MCMs are sealed, they are waterproof, in some embodiments down to tens of meters in depth.

[00065] The inventors have also made the surprising discovery that certain MCM operating parameters and MCM gap and vibrating membrane dimensions are deterministically related, such that MCM dimensions which will result in high sensitivity (or optimal sensitivity for selected operating parameters) can be determined from selected operating parameters. In other words, microphone design can be performed backwards for MCMs, starting from selected performance requirements, which can be used to determine corresponding physical microphone dimensions which will result in those performance characteristics! Moreover, if an MCM microphone is made from solid materials suitable for MEMS device fabrication, the determined dimensions will generally be unaffected by the particular materials used!

[00066] MCMs are related to CMUTs, but preferably operate in an audible range. MCMs can be used in, for example, airborne consumer and professional products, such as computers, ear phones, hearing aids, mobile phones, wireless equipment and wideband precision acoustic measurement and recording systems. Preferred MCM embodiments comprise a relatively simple structure, which can be fabricated at low cost using standard MEMS processes.

[00067] In an MCM, dimensions of the microphone that optimize microphone sensitivity, SNR and other performance characteristics can be determined by selecting values for three operating parameters (an “operating point”): normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, bias voltage of electrodes VDC, and relative bias voltage VDC/VC. (When not specified,“sensitivity” herein refers to the Open Circuit Receive Voltage (OCRV) sensitivity). The operating point, including the collapse voltage Vc, is further described below, along with the relationships between the operating point, MCM dimensions, MCM sensitivity and other MCM parameters. Further, the operating point can be used to determine normalized values for microphone dimensions, which are independent of properties of materials used in fabricating the microphone. De-normalized microphone dimensions (physical dimensions for fabrication) can then be determined from normalized dimensions using elastic properties (Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio) of a vibrating element (radiation plate), a static differential pressure between the gap and the ambient atmosphere (referred to herein as the ambient), and the permittivities of insulator layers connected to gap facing sides of the radiation plate. These relationships are described below.

[00068] A model relating various dimensions and properties of CMUTs is developed in H. Koymen, A. Atalar, E. Aydogdu, C. Kocaba§, H. K. Oguz, S. Olfum, A. Ozgiirluk, A. TJnliigedik, “An improved lumped element nonlinear circuit model for a circular CMUT cell,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, Vol. 59, no. 8, pp. 1791-1799, Aug. 2012, which is incorporated herein by reference (and referred to herein as the“Circuit Model reference”). This model is further developed in H. Koymen, A. Atalar and H. K. Oguz,“Designing Circular CMUT Cells Using CMUT Biasing Chart,” 2012 IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium Proceedings pp. 975-978, Dresden, October, 2012 (the “CMUT Design reference”). As MCM structure is based on principles of CMUT operation, the model developed in the Circuit Model and CMUT Design references is relevant to MCM design. However, the relationships described herein enabling determination of MCM measurements and OCRV sensitivity from an operating point were not stated in the Circuit Model and CMUT Design references.

[00069] A single capacitive microphone, such as an MCM, is also called a“cell”. A microphone system can comprise multiple cells.

[00070] An MCM with a circular sealed gap, and processes for determining dimensions of such an MCM to produce an optimum OCRV when the MCM is operated at a particular operating point, are disclosed in U.S. Pat. App. No. 15/939,077, which is incorporated herein by reference (and referred to herein as the“Circular Gap reference”).

[00071] Figure 3 schematically shows an example of a cross section of a Micromachined Capacitive Microphone 300 (MCM), comprising a capacitive electroacoustic microphone with a sealed gap 302. As shown in Figure 3, an MCM 300 preferably comprises a circular gap 302 (or other shape of gap 302, as further described below) fabricated (e.g., machined or etched) into a surface of a substrate 304, with the substrate 304 at the bottom of the gap 302 forming a back plate 306. The back plate 306 is made of a solid material suitable for use in manufacturing MEMS microphones, such as a metal, a conducting, semi-conducting or insulating ceramic, or a crystalline or polycrystalline material. A bottom electrode 308 is formed over the back plate 306, e.g., using a metallization technique.

[00072] A vibrating element in a microphone that is used to measure acoustic energy is generally called a“membrane” or a“radiation plate” depending on the vibrating element’s radius-to-thickness ratio. If the vibrating element’s radius-to-thickness ratio is less than a threshold (which different authorities specify as, for example, 40, 80 or 100), then the vibrating element is a“radiation plate”; otherwise, it is a“membrane”. MCMs 300 will generally use a vibrating element with a radius-to-thickness ratio less than 40. (This is discussed below with respect to Figure 7, using the scaling constant term first described with respect to Equation 29). Therefore, the vibrating element in MCMs described herein is referred to as a“radiation plate”.

[00073] A radiation plate 310 of total thickness t _{m } (thickness of membrane) is clamped to the back plate 306 at the aperture of the gap 302 (the upper side of the gap 302, that is, the side distant from the back plate 306), preferably at the rim of the gap’s 302 aperture, such that the gap 302 is sealed (“Total” thickness refers to t _{m } being the sum of the thickness of the radiation plate 310, plus any electrodes or insulator layers, further described below, which are attached to it). To implement this clamping and seal, the substrate 304 and the radiation plate 310 are mechanically coupled, e.g., by bonding, wafer bonding or sacrificial layer processing. The gap 302 is preferably completely (hermetically) sealed, so that no air (or other gas, dust or other material) can pass between the gap 302 and the ambient. The radiation plate 310 can be made of a solid material generally suitable for MEMS manufacture, such as a metal, a conducting, semi conducting or insulating ceramic, or a crystalline or polycrystalline material.

[00074] The radiation plate 310 can comprise multiple layers of different materials, such as a metal layer (or layers) for an electrode, a layer for compliance (CRM), and an insulator layer. The elastic properties of one layer will generally be more significant than the elastic properties of the other layers, since the other layers will generally be comparatively thin. The combined effects of multilayer structures on elastic behavior of a vibrating element in a microphone are described by: M. Funding la Cour, T. L. Christiansen, J. A. Jensen, Fellow, IEEE, and E. V. Thomsen,“Electrostatic and Small-Signal Analysis of CMUTs With Circular and Square Anisotropic Plates,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, vol. 62, no. 8, pp. 1563-1579, 2015 (the“Anisotropic Plates” reference). This reference provides an approach to treating a multilayered vibrating element as an equivalent single layer vibrating element, and determining a Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio for the equivalent single layer vibrating element.

[00075] The radiation plate 310 can have an elliptic shape, corresponding to an ellipse-shaped gap 302. In this case the elasticity of the radiation plate 310 is modified by a term that is a function of the aspect ratio of the radiation plate 310. The aspect ratio p _{e }, of the radiation plate 310 is defined as the ratio of the major radius of the radiation plate 310 to the minor radius of the radiation plate 310. This modification is described by: A.W. Leissa,“Vibration of Plates”, Scientific and Technical Information Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1969, p.39.

[00076] Airborne MCMs 300 (MCMs operated in air) are preferably operated off-resonance. This is because an MCM 300 operated on-resonance would have a high sensitivity peak, but the bandwidth would be relatively narrow (in some embodiments, too narrow for typical consumer electronics implementations such as cellular phone microphones).

[00077] The gap 302 has the same planar geometry as the radiation plate 310. Accordingly, the gap 302 has the same shape as the radiation plate 310 (in a plane parallel to the radiation plate 310), and the shape of the gap 302 can be described by the same values used to describe the shape of the radiation plate 310 (such as major and minor radii, or radius, or apothem, depending on the shape). The gap 302 is also described by a gap height t _{g }. The gap height t _{g } is the distance between the uppermost material at the bottom of the gap 302 and the lowermost material at the top of the gap 302 when the radiation plate 310 is undeflected. The radiation plate 310 is undeflected when the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } equals zero (generally, when there is no static pressure difference between the gap 302 and the ambient), and the bias voltage VDC is zero or the relative bias level VDC/VC equals zero. F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, VDC/VC and the“collapse voltage” Vc are further described below). A smaller gap 302 radius or a larger radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } will increase the stiffness of the radiation plate 310.

[00078] Figure 17 shows an example view comparing multiple gap 302 shapes. A circular (circle-shaped) gap 1700 is shown as a basis for comparison. The circular gap 1700 has a radius a. An octagonal gap 1710 has an apothem (also called inradius) r _{8 }. Herein, the apothem of a regular polygon refers to the length of a line segment from the polygon’s center to the midpoint of one of its sides. The “r” refers to the apothem, and the “8” refers to the number of sides of the corresponding polygon. A square gap 1720 has an apothem r _{4 }. The octagonal gap 1710 has an equivalent radius <¾ _{q }, which is the same as radius a. An octagon 1730 with apothem <¾ _{q } is shown. The square gap 1720 also has equivalent radius a _{eq }. A square 1740 with apothem _{< }¾ _{q } is shown. Regular convex polygonal (polygon shaped) gaps 302 have an equivalent radius (or equivalent apothem) a _{eq }. The equivalent radius a _{eq } of the regular convex polygon can be used, similarly to the radius a of a circular gap 1700 as described in the Circular Gap reference, in determining MCM 300 dimensions which will enable operation of the MCM 300 at a corresponding operating point with an optimum OCRV. An equivalent radius a _{cq } refers to the radius of a circle which would be equivalent to the polygon for purposes of determination of MCM 300 dimensions to optimize OCRV at a corresponding operating point. Accordingly (as further described below), a regular convex polygon-shaped gap 302 has an equivalent radius a _{eq } which can be determined from the apothem of the gap 302, an area of the gap 302 (of the polygon), and the gap height t _{g }.

[00079] Figure 18 shows an example view comparing multiple gap 302 shapes. An elliptical gap 1800 has a minor radius a _{\ } 1810 and a major radius < _{¾ } 1820. A circular gap 1830 has a radius a. A major radius 1820 and a minor radius 1810 (or a major radius to minor radius aspect ratio) of an elliptical gap 1800 can be determined to enable operation of the MCM 300 at a corresponding operating point with an optimum OCRV, as further described below.

[00080] Figure 19 shows a graph of the relationships between the minor axis a _{\ } of an ellipse-shaped gap 302 and the radius a of a seed circle gap 302, between the major axis < _{¾ } of the ellipse-shaped gap 302 and the radius a of the seed circle gap 302, and between the area of the ellipse-shaped gap 302 and the area of the seed circle gap 302. A seed circle is similar to an equivalent circle, and “equivalent circle” may sometimes be used instead of“seed circle” herein (but not vice versa). A seed circle of an MCM 300 with an ellipse-shaped gap 302 is the circle of radius a which enables an MCM 300 which has the same radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }, has the same effective gap height t _{ge }, and is operated at the same operating point as the MCM 300 with an ellipse-shaped gap 302 to have the same OCRV sensitivity (determination of OCRV is further described below). A minimum seed circle with radius c _{½in } (the smallest seed circle with the same OCRV which enables operation in a linear elastic regime, as further described below) can also be determined. Seed circle scaling (corresponding to scaling of the ellipse-shaped gap 302) can be performed as described in Equations 29-32, below.

[00081] Figure 20 shows an example view comparing multiple gap 302 shapes. An elliptical (ellipse-shaped) gap 2000 is shown as a basis for comparison. The elliptical gap 2000 has a minor radius <¾ _{qi } 2030 (or a _{\ }) and a major radius <¾ _{q }2 2040 (or < _{¾ }). A regular elliptic convex octagonal gap 2010 (an example of a regular elliptic convex polygonal or polygon-shaped gap 302; a rectangle 2020 is another example of a regular elliptic convex polygon- shaped gap 302) has a minor apothem r _{8i } and a major apothem ¾. Regular elliptic convex polygon- shaped gaps 302 have an equivalent minor radius <¾ _{q } i and an equivalent major radius <¾ _{q }2. Equivalent radii <¾ _{q } i and a _{eq2 } refer to the radii of an ellipse which would be equivalent to the polygon for purposes of determination of MCM 300 dimensions to optimize OCRV at a corresponding operating point. An equivalent major radius is the major radius of an equivalent ellipse, and an equivalent minor radius is the minor radius of an equivalent ellipse. Accordingly, an equivalent ellipse is an ellipse with a major radius to minor radius ratio which is the same as the regular elliptic convex polygon’s major apothem to minor apothem ratio, and with major and minor radii which will result in the MCM 300 producing the same OCRV if the ellipse- shaped gap 302 is substituted for the regular elliptic convex polygon shaped gap 302.

[00082] The“relevant gap 302 radius oc” or“relevant radiation plate 310 radius oc” refers to the radius a if the gap 302 is circle- shaped, or the equivalent radius a _{cq } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped. Note that the gap 302 and the radiation plate 310 have the same radius (or major and minor radii, or equivalent radius).

[00083] The“relevant minor gap 302 radius oci” or“relevant minor radiation plate 310 radius ocT’ refers to the minor radius ct _{\ } if the gap 302 is ellipse shaped, or the equivalent minor radius <¾ _{q } i if the gap 302 is regular elliptic convex polygon-shaped.

[00084] The“relevant major gap 302 radius oc” or“relevant major radiation plate radius oc” refers to the major radius < _{¾ } if the gap 302 is ellipse- shaped, or the equivalent major radius <¾ _{q }2 if the gap 302 is regular elliptic convex polygon-shaped.

[00085] A top electrode 312 is fixedly connected to the radiation plate 310, or can be the radiation plate 310 itself if the radiation plate 310 is made of a conductive material. The top electrode 312 can be formed on either surface of the radiation plate 310, or can be formed within the radiation plate 310 if the radiation plate 310 is made of a dielectric material. The top electrode 312 is preferably formed using a metallization technique (if the radiation plate 310 is not itself the top electrode 312). Preferably, the bottom electrode 308 fully covers the back plate 306 (the bottom of the gap 302; that is, the back plate 306 is“fully electroded”), and the top electrode 312 fully covers the portion of the radiation plate 310 that faces and touches the gap 302 (the radiation plate 310 is“fully electroded”). The voltage across the electrodes 308, 312 is a bias voltage VDC· Generally, at lower bias voltages VDC, better microphone performance is achieved if the back plate 306 and radiation plate 310 are fully electroded. Electrodes 308, 312 can also be smaller than the gap 302, down to 80% of the size of the gap 302, as further explained below. Electrodes 308, 312 which are smaller than the gap 302 are preferably concentric with the gap 302. [00086] There is preferably a first dielectric insulator layer 314 of thickness tu fixedly attached to and covering the gap 302 side of the bottom electrode 308, and a second dielectric insulator layer 316 of thickness h _{2 } fixedly attached to and covering the gap 302 side of the combination of the radiation plate 310 and the top electrode 312. In alternative embodiments, both of the dielectric insulator layers 314, 316 can be located on the gap 302 side of either the bottom electrode 308, or the combination of the radiation plate 310 and the top electrode 312. The insulating layers 314, 316 can be made of an insulating material suitable for use in a MEMS microphone (generally, any such material), such as an insulating ceramic, polymer, crystalline or polycrystalline material. One or both of the insulator layers 314, 316 can be electrets.

[00087] Electrets and certain CMUT performance measurements are addressed in H. Koymen, A. Atalar, Itir Koymen, A.S. Ta§delen, A. TJnliigedik, “Unbiased Charged Circular CMUT Microphone: Lumped Element Modeling and Performance”, IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, Vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 60-71, Nov. 14, 2018, which is incorporated herein by reference (and referred to herein as the“Electret and Performance reference”). The Electret and Performance reference and the Anisotropic Plates reference show that noise (losses) in a CMUT (a capacitive MEMS microphone with a sealed gap) are very small - in some embodiments, approximately 0 dBA.

[00088] An MCM 300 is a capacitive microphone. Capacitive microphone operation uses the fact that if a voltage (electric potential) is applied across two parallel conducting plates (the bottom and top electrodes 308, 312) separated by a gap 302, the parallel conducting plates 308, 312 will attract each other electrostatically via the electromechanical attraction force. The radiation plate 310 is clamped (fixedly connected) to the substrate 304 at the rim of the gap 302, and the top electrode 312 is attached to (fixedly connected to or comprised of) the radiation plate 310. Because the radiation plate 310 is clamped to the substrate 304 at the rim of the gap 302, the spring reaction (elastic restoring force) due to the elasticity of the radiation plate 310 resists the electromechanical force exerted by the top electrode 312. That is, the attraction between the electrodes 308, 312 pulls the radiation plate 310 down into the gap 302, and the elasticity of the radiation plate 310 pulls the radiation plate 310 back towards a resting position. The voltage across the electrodes 308, 312 is the bias voltage VDC· For a given bias voltage VDC, the electromechanical force and elastic restoring force are balanced when the center of the radiation plate 310 is displaced by an equilibrium displacement distance (also called the equilibrium point).

[00089] As stated, the voltage across the electrodes 308, 312 is a bias voltage VDC· If the bias voltage VDC is increased beyond a limit for“uncollapsed” microphone operation called the“collapse voltage” Vc, the elastic restoring force is unable to prevent the electromechanical force from causing the center of the radiation plate 310 to collapse into (make physical contact with) the bottom of the gap 302. In example embodiments as shown in Figure 3, this would comprise the first insulator layer 314 touching the second insulator layer 316. Generally, microphone SNR is significantly decreased in collapsed operation. The ratio between the bias voltage VDC and the collapse voltage Vc is called the relative bias level V _{DC }/V _{C }-

[00090] Preferably, the sealed gap 302 contains a very low pressure environment (a vacuum, for example, less than 10 mbar). If the gap 302 contains a vacuum, there is a static pressure difference Po between the ambient environment (on the other side of the radiation plate 310 from the gap 302) and the gap 302 which results in a net static force F _{Peb } pushing the radiation plate 310 into the gap 302. [00091] At equilibrium, when sound (a time varying pressure signal) is incident on the radiation plate 310 (accordingly, received by the MCM 300), the radiation plate 310 vibrates and the displacement of the radiation plate 310 changes (e.g., oscillates) around the equilibrium point. This movement causes variation of the microphone capacitance (the capacitance between the top and bottom electrodes 308, 312). Variation in the microphone capacitance, combined with the charge stored on the capacitance due to the bias voltage VDC, causes a voltage across the output terminals of the microphone to vary in proportion to the incident sound pressure signal. This output voltage can be amplified, measured, stored, and used to reproduce (play back) the sound originally received by the microphone (the MCM 300).

[00092] An“operating point” is defined herein as a triplet of selected values comprising the applied bias voltage VDC, the relative bias level VDC/VC, and the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg } (further described below with respect to Figure 4 and Equation 8). As disclosed below, an operating point uniquely determines dimensions of an MCM 300 that will result in optimal sensitivity of the MCM 300 at that operating point. For example, an operating point can be used to determine an MCM’s 300 relevant gap 302 radius oc or relevant major and minor gap 302 radii oc and oci, radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }, and effective gap 302 height t _{ge } (as described below with respect to, for example, Equations 11-21). Alternatively, the operating point can be used to determine an MCM’s relevant minimum gap 302 radius oc _{mm } or relevant minimum major and minor gap 302 radii oc _{2_mm } and oci _{min }, minimum radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m min }, and effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, along with a range for relevant radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio oc/t _{m } (described below) enabling the MCM 300 to maintain elastic linear operation (operation within the elastic linearity constraint, as described below with respect to Figures 7, 8A and 8B). Dimensions as determined yield a resulting (and optimal) open circuit receive voltage (OCRV) sensitivity at a corresponding operating point. Dimensions can then be adjusted to enable robust elastic linear operation without compromising the OCRV sensitivity. These results take advantage of the very low noise floor (in some embodiments, approximately 0 dBA) and high SNR (in some embodiments, approximately 94 dBA) in airborne sealed gap 302 MCMs 300 as disclosed herein.

[00093] The “relevant radius-to-thickness ratio oc/t _{m }” or “relevant radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio oc/t _{m }” refers to the radius-to-thickness ratio a! t _{m } if the gap 302 is circle-shaped; the equivalent-radius-to-thickness ratio a _{e q }/t _{m } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped; the major-radius-to- thickness ratio < _{¾ }/t _{m } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped; or the equivalent-major- radius-to-thickness ratio a _{e q }2/t _{m }, if the gap 302 is regular elliptic convex polygon shaped.

[00094] The operating point can be selected: for example, to minimize bias voltage VDC, and/or to correspond to a selected OCRV sensitivity, relevant gap radius oc (or other physical dimension), or other desired performance characteristic. Selectable operating point values, and optimality of results with respect to the selected operating point, are not limited by materials to be used in fabrication of the radiation plate 310 or insulator layers 314, 316. Such components in an MCM 300 can be made out of materials suitable for manufacture of similar components in MEMS devices (in preferred embodiments, any such materials). Normalized dimensions of the MCM 300, which are not dependent on material properties, can be determined directly from the operating point. De- normalized dimensions used before MCM 300 fabrication can then be determined using properties of materials selected for use in MCM 300 components. As a result, dimensions, sensitivity and other properties of the MCM, including relevant gap radius oc and radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }, effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, and Open Circuit Receive Voltage Sensitivity (OCRV), as well as other microphone performance parameters, are independent of the particular material(s) used to fabricate the radiation plate 310 and the insulator layers 314, 316.

[00095] Also described herein are conditions enabling the relevant gap 302 radius oc, the radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }, and the ratio between the relevant gap 302 radius and the radiation plate 310 thickness oc/t _{m } to be rescaled, within ranges and with relationships determined by the operating point, while maintaining the optimal OCRV sensitivity for that operating point.

[00096] Figure 4 shows an example visual representation 400 of an analytical model for a Micromachined Capacitive Microphone 300 (MCM), using a cross-section of the MCM 300. As shown in Figure 4, the effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, which is an electrical dimension of the gap 302 used in modeling the MCM 300, depends on the gap height t _{g }, the relative permittivity of the first insulator layer 114 e _{G }_a, and the relative permittivity of the second insulator layer 116 S _{r } _i2. These relative permittivities are the ratios between the respective permittivities of the insulator layers 314, 316 and the permittivity of free space (Permittivity is the resistance of a medium to forming an electric field in that medium. The gap 302 preferably contains a vacuum, which has a relative permittivity of 1). The effective gap height t _{ge } is determined as shown in Equation 1. Note that if the entire gap 302 height t _{g } and insulator height (t,i plus t _{l } ) comprised vacuum, the effective gap height t _{ge } would equal the gap height t _{g }.

Equation 1

[00097] Insulator layer 314, 316 thicknesses and materials

(corresponding to permittivities) can be selected after the effective gap 302 height t _{ge } is determined. That is, appropriate materials for insulator layer 314, 316 fabrication can be selected to keep insulator layer 314, 316 thickness (tu, t _{l } ) small relative to the gap 302 height t _{g }. Once effective gap 302 height t _{ge } is determined, then gap 302 height t _{g } can be determined such that gap 302 height t _{g } is greater than the static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }, plus a margin for production tolerances and insulator layer 314, 316 thicknesses using selected insulator materials. The static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P } is the deflection distance of the center of the radiation plate 310 from the effective gap height t _{ge } at the equilibrium point. Higher relative permittivities of insulator layers 314, 316 generally correspond to thinner insulator layers 314, 316. The effective gap 302 height t _{ge } is determined from the operating point as shown below in Equations 11 through 15.

[00098] Microphones are more sensitive when the bias voltage V _{DC } is larger. The effective gap 302 height t _{ge } determines the level of bias voltage V _{DC } that can be used, because higher bias voltages increase the deflection of the radiation plate 310, and sufficiently high bias voltages V _{DC } will cause the radiation plate 310 to collapse. Voltage available on a device also limits bias voltage V _{D }c- For example, some mobile phones are limited to about 14 volts available to mobile phone components. Electrets can provide, for example, 150 volts to 200 volts bias voltage. The Electret and Performance reference is relevant to implementation of electrets in a capacitive MEMS microphone with a sealed gap.

[00099] In an MCM 100, the bias voltage V _{D }c, the static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }, and the net static force on the radiation plate 310 due to the ambient static pressure F _{Peb } are related, in static electromechanical equilibrium (at the equilibrium point), as shown in Equation 9 (below).

[000100] The relationship shown in Equation 9 is dependent on various properties of the MCM 300 (which are explained below), including the shape function of a deflected clamped circular plate g(X _{P }/t _{ge }) (also referred to as g(u)), which is proportional to the capacitance of the MCM 300; the transduction force (proportional to g'(u)), the first derivative of g(u)); the collapse voltage in vacuum V _{r } (a reference voltage); the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }; the Young’s modulus Y _{0 } (stiffness) and Poisson’s ratio s (signed ratio of transverse strain to axial strain) of the radiation plate 310; the differential pressure P _{0 } between the ambient static pressure and the pressure in the gap 302; the clamped capacitance Co, and the compliance of the radiation plate 310 C _{R }„, (the inverse of the stiffness of the radiation plate 310).

[000101] The transduction force is the force generated on the radiation plate 310 when a bias voltage V _{D }c is applied. Equation 3 expresses the transduction force in terms of the effect the bias voltage V _{DC } has on the shape of the radiation plate 310 (rather than in terms of the bias voltage V _{DC })· The variable u corresponds to the ratio of the static displacement to the effective gap height

Xp/tge.

[000102] An MCM 300 which has a regular convex polygon-shaped gap 302 having n sides can be approximated by an MCM 300 having a circle-shaped gap 302 with equivalent radius a _{cq } given in Equation 5:

Equation 5

wherein r _{n } is the apothem (or inradius) of the regular convex polygon. The equivalent radius a _{cq } is the radius of a circle of area equal to the geometric mean of the area of the polygon’s in circle (inscribed circle) and the area of the polygon. Examples with n=4 and n=8 are depicted in Figure 17, together with the equivalent circle of radius a _{eq }.

[000103] An MCM 300 comprising a regular elliptic convex polygon shaped gap 302 having n sides is approximated to an MCM 300 comprising an elliptic gap 302 with minor radius a _{cq } , and major radius a _{eq2 } given in Equation 6 A and 6B.

Equation 6A

and

Equation 6B

wherein r _{ni } is the minor apothem (inradius) of the regular convex polygon and r _{n2 } is the major apothem (inradius) of the regular convex polygon. Examples with n=4 and n=8 are depicted in Figure 20 together with the equivalent ellipse of minor radius <¾qi and major radius a _{cq2 }.

[000104] Equation 9 shows the collapse voltage in vacuum V _{r } for a fully electroded MCM 300. V _{r } depends on dimensions of the MCM 300 and properties of the radiation plate 310. This model is also valid for MCMs 300 using electrodes 308, 312 which are between 80% and 100% of the size of the gap 302 area, if g(u) and its derivatives (that is, the terms used to determine the transduction force and the shape function of the radiation plate 310) are modified as shown in the Circuit Model reference.

Equation 7

wherein oc , (minor radius) and oc _{2 } (major radius) are equal to gap radius a if the gap 302 has a circular shape; wherein oq and oc _{2 } are equal to equivalent gap radius a _{cq } if the gap 302 has a regular convex polygon shape;

wherein oq is equal to minor gap radius ct _{\ } and oc _{2 } is equal to major gap radius < _{¾ } if the gap 302 has an elliptic shape;

and wherein oq is equal to equivalent minor gap radius a _{e qi } and oc _{2 } is equal to equivalent major gap radius a _{eq2 } if the gap 302 has a regular elliptic convex polygon shape.

[000105] As previously stated, Po is the differential pressure between the ambient static pressure and the pressure in the gap 302. For example, if the gap 302 contains a vacuum and the ambient static pressure equals Standard Atmospheric Pressure (SAP), then P _{0 } equals SAP.

[000106] As previously stated, F _{Peb } is the net static force on the radiation plate 310 due to the ambient static pressure, that is, the force on the radiation plate 310 due to the differential static pressure between the ambient static pressure and the pressure in the gap 302 P _{0 }. F _{Peg } is the uniformly distributed force required to displace the center of the radiation plate 310 by the effective gap height t _{ge } (that is, to cause the radiation plate 310 to collapse). Because t _{ge } > t _{g } in uncollapsed operation (depending on whether there is an insulator layer 314, 316 between the electrodes 308, 312, see Equation 1), the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } < 1. The normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } is given in Equation 8.

Equation 8

wherein oq and oc _{2 } are equal to gap radius a if the gap 302 has a circular shape; wherein oq and oc _{2 } are equal to equivalent gap radius a _{cq } if the gap 302 has a regular convex polygon shape; wherein oc , is equal to minor gap radius a _{L } and oc _{2 } is equal to major gap radius <¾ if the gap 302 has an elliptic shape;

and wherein oc, is equal to equivalent minor gap radius <¾qi and oc _{2 } is equal to equivalent major gap radius <¾ _{q2 } if the gap 302 has a regular elliptic convex polygon shape.

[000107] A circle-shaped gap 302 (and radiation plate 310) is a special case of an ellipse-shaped gap 302. This special case occurs when oc _{! } and oc _{2 } are equal. In this case, Equation 8 simplifies to Equation 8 A and the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } for this special case is abbreviated as F _{b }/F _{g } as described in the Circular Gap reference:

Equation 8A

[000108] In an MCM 300 in uncollapsed operation in which the gap 302 contains a vacuum, the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } can assume values between 0 (if the ambient static pressure is zero, so that differential static pressure Po=0; or if the radiation plate 310 is infinitely stiff, meaning

and the ratio between the gap 302 height and the effective gap 302 height t _{g }/t _{ge }. The limiting case F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }=l means that the center of the radiation plate 310 is displaced by the effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, which is not physically possible when there is an insulator layer 314, 316 between the electrodes 308, 312. (F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } is also zero in pressure compensated MEMS microphones.)

[000109] The normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } will generally be relatively low in an MCM 300 with a stiff radiation plate 310 (large - , or with

CRm

a compliant radiation plate 310 (large C _{Rm }) and a large effective gap 302 height t _{ge }. Fp _{eb }/F _{Peg } will generally be relatively high if the ambient static pressure displaces the radiation plate 310 by a significant fraction of the effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, which can occur, for example, in a MCM 300 with a compliant radiation plate 310, or with a stiff radiation plate 310 and a relatively small effective gap height t _{ge }.

[000110] Figure 5 shows a graph 500 of the relationship between the ratio of the bias voltage to the collapse voltage in a vacuum V _{D }c/V _{r } and the normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }/t _{ge } at the electromechanical equilibrium (the equilibrium point). In Figure 5, the solid curves correspond to operational domains in which the microphone will be in uncollapsed operation; the dotted line marks the transition between uncollapsed operation and collapsed operation; and the dotted curves correspond to operational domains in which the microphone will be in collapsed operation. The ratio of the bias voltage to the collapse voltage V _{DC }/V· is given in Equation 9.

[000111] Equation 9 shows that the static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P } is equal to t _{ge }x(Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }) when the plate is electrically unbiased, so that V _{D }c ^{= } 0. This can also be viewed as the normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }/t _{ge } being equal to the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } when no bias voltage is applied, so that V _{D }c ^{= } 0.

[000112] The collapse voltage Vc depends on the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, as well as the stiffness of the radiation plate 310 and the effective gap 302 height t _{ge }. When the radiation plate 310 is displaced by ambient static pressure (accordingly, the MCM 300 is not in a vacuum), the collapse voltage Vc is decreased from the collapse voltage in a vacuum V _{r }. As shown in Equation 10, the collapse voltage Vc, normalized to V _{r }, depends only on Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }. V _{c } F _{Peb } /F _{Peb } V F _{Peb }\

- « 0.9961 - 1.0468-=—— + 0.06972 - 0.25 + 0.01148

¼ ^Peg V^Peg / \Fpeg/

Equation 10

[000113] As shown in Equations 11 through 21 below, the MCM 300 dimensions, that is, relevant gap radius oc, radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } and effective gap height t _{ge }, can be expressed in terms of the operating point: normalized static mechanical force F _{P }e _{b }/Fp _{eg }, relative bias level VDC/VC, and bias voltage VDC·

[000114] The effective gap 302 height t _{ge } is determined as shown in Equation 11.

Equation 11

[000115] Equation 11 can be rewritten to express the effective gap height t _{ge } in terms of the normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } and the normalized effective gap height t _{g }e _{n }, as shown in Equation 12. VDC_ _{II } is defined as shown in Equation 15. tge - V _{DC } n ( ^{~ }) t _{ge n } Equation 12

[000116] The normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } is a function of normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, as shown in Equation 13.

-1

/ Fpeb Fpe Equation 13

§ ^{e n } Fp _{e }g/ = \ v _{r / } f peg

[000117] Figure 6 shows a graph 600 of the relationship between normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } for a MCM 300, as described in Equation 14. Equation 13 can be rewritten using Equation 10 so that the normalized effective gap height t _{ge n } depends only on normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, as shown in Equation 14. Equations 12, 14 and 15 can be used to determine the effective gap height t _{ge } using the operating point, independent of material properties. Equation 1 can be used to determine the gap height t _{g } using the effective gap height t _{ge } and permittivities of selected insulator layer 314, 316 materials.

Fpeb

t ge_n

Fpeg

Fpeb

0.9961 - 1.0468 f— + 0.06972 (^- - 0.25 + 0.01148 f—

\Fpeg/ \Fpeg / \Fpeg/

Equation 14

[000118] The normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } is related to the bias voltage VDC as shown in Equation 15. The normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } is approximately 1.4x 1 O ^{8 } V _{DC } (meters) for a sealed gap 302 containing vacuum when the ambient pressure is SAP.

Equation 15

[000119] The radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } is related to the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{e }b/Fp _{e }g and the relative bias level VDC/VC using the relevant normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) and the tm' _{N } normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } (see Equation 15), as shown in Equation 16.

Equation 16

“Relevant normalized” values refer to the respective relevant values, normalized to remove dependence on material properties. For example, a relevant normalized gap 302 radius is the relevant gap 302 radius, after being normalized as described. Accordingly, the“relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio”!— ) refers to the normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) if the gap 302 is circle- shaped; the normalized equivalent-radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon- shaped; the normalized major-radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped; and the normalized equivalent-major-radius-to- thickness ratio ! ^Si jf the gap 302 is regular elliptic convex polygon-shaped.

t _{m }

[000120] The relevant normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) is related to the relevant radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio shown in Equation 17. The non-dimensional scaling constant

used in Equationl7 is dependent on the elastic properties of the radiation plate 310 (Young’s modulus Yo and Poisson’s ratio s) and the static pressure difference Po between the gap 302 and the ambient.

(½) ^{= } © C 15.(1— ^{6 }^ s ^{2 })R _{o0 } ) ( ^{4 } ( ^{3 }P _{e } + 2p _{e } + 3)) Equation 17 wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the gap 302 radius a if the gap 302 is circle-shaped;

wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the equivalent gap 302 radius a _{eq } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{2 }/ai, and oc is equal to the major gap 202 radius < _{¾ } and the minor gap 302 radius is c = a _{2 }/p _{e } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{eq2 }/a _{eqi }, and oc is equal to the equivalent major gap 302 radius a _{cq2 } and the equivalent minor gap 302 radius a _{eqi }=a _{eq2 }/p _{e } if the gap 302 is regular convex elliptic polygon-shape; [000121] The radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } can also be written in terms of the normalized radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n } as shown in Equation 18. Equation 18

[000122] The normalized radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n } is defined in Equation 19 in terms of the relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) and the normalized static mechanical force F _{Pe }b/Fp _{eg }. The ratio of the collapse voltage to the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } can be substituted for using Equation 10. Note that there is an inverse relationship between the size of the normalized radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n } and the normalized ratio between the relevant gap radius and the radiation plate 310 thickness (— ) .

tm ' N

Equation 19

[000123] The relevant gap radius o is determined, as shown in Equation 21, using the relevant normalized gap radius oc _{n }. The relevant normalized gap radius oc _{n } is defined in Equation 20 in terms of the relevant normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) . The ratio between the collapse voltage t _{M } ' N

and the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } can be substituted for using Equation 10. Note that there is an inverse relationship between the relevant normalized gap radius oc _{n } and the normalized ratio between the relevant gap 302 radius and the radiation plate 310 thickness

m '

Equation 20 [000124] As shown in Equation 21, relevant gap radius oc is determined by the elastic constants of a selected radiation plate 310 material, and the operating point. The normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } is given in Equation 15.

Equation 21 wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the gap 302 radius a if the gap 302 is circle-shaped;

wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the equivalent gap 302 radius a _{cq } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{2 }Ia and oc is the major gap 302 radius a _{2 } and the minor gap 302 radius is a _{x } = a _{2 }/p _{e } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{cq2 }/a _{cq } and oc is the equivalent major gap 302 radius <¾ _{q }2 and the equivalent minor gap 302 radius <¾ _{qi } ^{= }<¾ _{q }2/p _{e } if the gap 302 is regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped;

[000125] The equations set forth herein, particularly (but not only) Equations 10, 13, 19, 20 and 22-24, show that the normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II }, the normalized gap height t _{ge } _ _{n }, the relevant normalized gap 302 radius oc _{n }, the normalized radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n }, and the relevant normalized radius- to-thickness ratio (— ) are independent of material properties.

tm ' N

[000126] Boundary conditions are discussed below for the relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— ), relevant gap 302 radius oc, radiation plate 310 tm '

thickness t _{m }, and corresponding normalized values, with respect to Figures 7, 8A and 8B and Equations 22 through 28. Scalability of the relevant radius-to- thickness ratio while maintaining optimum sensitivity at a selected operating point is discussed below with respect to Equations 29 through 32. Together, these Figures and Equations demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility in selection of particular MCM 300 dimensions for use at a selected operating point while maintaining optimum sensitivity (subject to the relationships described herein).

[000127] Figure 7 shows a lin-log semi-log graph 700 of the relationship between a maximum normalized relevant radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio that enables an MCM 300 to meet the elastic linearity constraint

(explained below), and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fpeg, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC. The elastic linearity constraint can be explained using Hooke’s law. Hooke’s law defines the behavior of linearly elastic structures under stress. Hooke’s law states that the displacement in a spring (or other linearly elastic structure) is proportional to a force which stretches or compresses it. If the force is doubled, the displacement of the spring will be doubled. However, once a real spring is sufficiently displaced (stretched), doubling the force will not double the displacement, deviating from Hooke’s law. This is due to elastic non-linearity. Beyond an upper bound for applied force and for displacement, Hooke’s law no longer holds and the relationship between applied force and spring displacement is no longer linear.

[000128] Hooke’s law applies to clamped membranes as long as linearly elastic operation holds. Studies on applied mechanics classify the linearly elastic range, that is, the displacement range in which Hooke’s law is applicable to a clamped circular radiation plate, as corresponding to the center deflection of the radiation plate being less than 20% of the plate thickness, that is, Xp/t _{m }< 0.2. The sensitivity of an MCM 300 will decrease when elastic linearity fails, accordingly, when Xp/t _{m } > 0.2. This limit for linearly elastic behavior of an MCM 300 is referred to herein as the“elastic linearity constraint.”

[000129] When a clamped elliptic plate deflects under uniformly distributed force, the deflection profile, which has elliptic equal displacement contours, is similar to that of a clamped circular disc, which has circular equal displacement contours.

[000130] The elastic linearity constraint can be used to determine a maximum value for the radiation plate 310 relevant radius-to-thickness ratio

at which an MCM 300 at a particular operating point will exhibit linearly elastic behavior. This maximum relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) corresponds to minima for the relevant gap radius oc and the radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }. Accordingly, as shown in Equations 15 and 18-21 herein, there is an inverse relationship between (1) the size of the relevant gap radius oc and radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } (the radiation plate 310 dimensions), and (2) the relevant radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio

[000131] Elastic linearity of CMUT cells is described in A. Unlugedik, A. S. Tasdelen, A. Atalar, and H. Koymen,“Designing Transmitting CMUT Cells for Airborne Applications,” IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, Vol. 61, pp. 1899-1910, 2014, which is incorporated herein by reference.

[000132] The maximum radiation plate 310 relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) is found using a maximum normalized relevant radius-to-thickness tnU max

ratio (— ) , which is related to the normalized static displacement of the tm N _{. }max

center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }/t _{ge } as shown in Equation 22. In Equation 22, the normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P }/t _{ge } is expressed as j _{s^ as a } function of the relative bias V _{DC }/V _{C } and

the normalized static mechanical force F _{Pe }b/F _{P }eg. F Peb /v /"Vpc Fpeb\

Equation 22 Fpeg/ ^{XpN } V ^{v }c ' Fpeg J

wherein oc is the gap 302 radius a if the gap 302 is circle-shaped;

wherein oc is the equivalent gap 302 radius <¾ _{q } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped;

wherein oc is the major gap 302 radius < _{¾ } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

and wherein oc is the equivalent major gap 302 radius a _{eq2 } if the gap 302 is regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped.

[000133] The normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{PN } j - _{§ } obt ned in Equation 23 by solving Equation

V V _{c } Fp _{eg } /

9, and substituting for the collapse voltage in a vacuum V _{r } using Equation 10.

[000134] As shown in Figure 7, (— ) < 1; that is, the maximum

N_max value of the relevant maximum normalized radius-to-thickness ratio

m N max which is unity (one), is reached at F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }=l (see description of Figure 4 and Equation 8 regarding normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }). The relevant maximum normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) that enables an MCM

tm' N max 300 to meet the elasticlinearity constraint decreases as normalized static mechanical force F _{P }e _{b }/F _{Peg } decreases or as relative bias level VDC/VC decreases.

[000135] The first part of the scaling constant term relating relevant radius oc to relevant normalized radius oc _{n } (see Equations 17 and 21), , is 35.6 for a silicon radiation plate 310, if Young’s modulus Yo is

J ,

149 10 ^{9 } Pa, Poisson’s ratio s is 0.17, and the static pressure difference Po between the gap 302 and the ambient equals SAP (101.325kPa). The second part of the scaling constant term, depends on the geometry of the

radiation plate 310, and equals to 1 if the radiation plate 310 is circle-shaped or regular convex polygon-shaped. For a silicon radiation plate 310, the relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) will therefore, to maintain linearly elastic operation,

'An'

be kept less than 35.6 at large normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } if the static pressure differential Po is equal to SAP. This upper limit for relevant radius- to-thickness ratio for elastic linear operation decreases as the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } decreases. The minimum relevant radius-to- thickness ratio (— ) is about 8 for F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } = 0.001. Because there is an inverse relationship between the radiation plate dimensions (oc and t _{m }) and the relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— ), the elastic linearity constraint suggests that the

'An'

lower the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg }, the larger the relevant gap 302 radius oc should be.

[000136] Accordingly, a maximum relevant normalized radius-to- thickness ratio (— ) implies minimum values for the relevant gap 302 radius

tm' N max

oC _{min } and the radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m min } that enable an MCM 300 to operate in the linearly elastic regime at a selected operating point (Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, VDC, VDC/VC). The minimum relevant gap 302 radius oc _{min } corresponds to the narrowest gap 302 that enables linearly elastic operation at a selected operating point. The minimum radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m min } corresponds to the thinnest radiation plate 310 that enables linearly elastic operation at a selected operating point.

[000137] Equation 24 shows the relationship between minimum relevant radius oc _{min } and normalized minimum relevant radius oc _{n min }, which is found using the relationship between relevant gap 302 radius oc and normalized relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n } as described by Equation 21.

[000138] Figure 8A shows a log-lin semi-log graph 800 of the relationship between minimum normalized relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n min } that enables an MCM 300 to meet the elastic linearity constraint, and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC. Equation 25 defines normalized minimum relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n min } in terms of relevant maximum normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) , using therelationship between normalized relevant gap 302 radius tm ' N_max

oc _{n } and relevant normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) as

tm' N described by Equation 20. Note that the ratio between the clamp voltage and the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } depends only on the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, as shown in Equation 10.

Equation 25

[000139] Equation 26 shows the relationship between minimum radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m min } and normalized minimum radiation plate 310 thickness tm_n_min, which is found using the relationship between radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } and normalized radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n } as described by Equation 18.

Equation 26

[000140] Figure 8B shows a log-lin semi-log graph 802 of the relationship between normalized minimum radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m-n }_mm that enables an MCM 300 to meet the elastic linearity constraint, and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }- Equation 27 defines normalized minimum radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n min } in terms of relevant maximum normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) , using the relationship between normalized minimum radiation tm' N max

plate 310 thickness t _{m min } and normalized relevant radius-to-thickness ratio (— )

tm'' N as described by Equation 19. Note that the ratio between the clamp voltage and the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } depends only on the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, as shown in Equation 10. Equation 27

[000141] The scaling constant term in Equation 24 is determined for silicon in Equation 28, taking Young’s modulus Yo to be 149 N O ^{9 } Pa, Poisson’s ratio s to be 0.17, and the static pressure difference Po between the gap 302 and the ambient to equal SAP (101.325 kPa). 177.95 Equation 28 ^{4 }

[000142] This normalization parameter for the relevant minimum gap 302 radius oc _{min } is non-dimensional and contains only the elastic constants of the radiation plate 310 material and the differential static pressure Po. The normalized minimum relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n min } and radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n min } are independent of material and ambient physical properties and the bias voltage V _{DC }· The normalized minimum relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n min } and radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m n min } are instead determined by normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } and relative bias voltage V _{DC }/V _{C }, as shown in Equations 10, 22, 23, 25 and 27.

[000143] Using Equations 29-32, a relevant normalized radiation plate 310 radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) can be chosen (within the limitations described by the equations) that is less than the relevant maximum radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) , that is, less than the value of the relevant normalized radius-to- thickness ratio (— ) at the elastic linearity limit. The smaller the relevant

tm'' N normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) of an MCM 300 operated at a selected

tm'' N

operating point (Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, V _{DC }, V _{DC }/V _{C }), the larger the relevant gap 302 radius oc, the thicker the radiation plate 310 (larger t _{m }), and the more robust the linearly elastic operation (less prone to variations in operation removing the MCM 300 from the linearly elastic regime) of the MCM 300 operated at the selected operating point; without changing the OCRV sensitivity corresponding to that operating point. Further, increased relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio

(— ) (within the limitations described in the equations) results in increased input tm' N

capacitance C _{m } of the MCM 300, which is advantageous for pre-amplification electronics. Also, the larger the clamped capacitance C _{0 }, the smaller the relative effect of parasitic capacitance on MCM 300 performance. Accordingly, a choice of relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) can be made while retaining

tm'' N

the same optimal OCRV sensitivity at the selected operating point.

[000144] A scalar K is defined in Equation 29, relating the relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) to the relevant maximum normalized

tm'' N radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) . K, as expressed in Equation 30, is defined to

tm ' N max

satisfy the elastic linearity constraint. Accordingly, K is larger than unity, that is, K > 1.

Equation 29 Equation 30

[000145] The normalized relevant radius oc _{n } can be expressed in terms of the minimum normalized relevant gap 302 radius oc _{n min } and the scalar K as shown in Equation 31. The normalized thickness t _{m n } of the radiation plate 310 can be expressed in terms of the minimum normalized thickness of the radiation plate 310 t _{m n min } and the scalar K as shown in Equation 32. A larger K means a radiation plate 310 that is thicker relative to the relevant gap 302 radius oc. There is an upper limit for K, approximately K < 5, above which the radiation plate 310 becomes too thick for the model to be valid. Further, in some embodiments comprising an MCM 300 fabricated from typical materials and intended for use in an air environment, K <2.5 is preferable. Microphones with K over 2.5 will have relevant gap 302 radius oc much larger than radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }. This can make the MCM 300 difficult and/or expensive to manufacture, and potentially fragile in operation.

oc _{n }= (K ^{3 }) x n_mm Equation 31 Equation 32 [000146] For a particular selected operating point triplet (Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, V _{D }C, V _{D }C/VC), changes in K (within boundaries as described) will not affect the MCM 300 sensitivity or the effective gap 302 height t _{ge }.

[000147] Open Circuit Receive Voltage (OCRV) sensitivity of an MCM 300 is obtained, in volts (V) per Pascal (Pa), as shown in Equation 33. (Particular units are used herein by way of example only; other units can be used.) The OCRV sensitivity is represented by Svo· Svo ^{= }Voc/p. Voc is the voltage across the electrical terminals (not shown) of the MCM 300 when the terminals are in open circuit, and p represents incident pressure, meaning that Voc/p describes the strength (Voc) of the voltage induced between the terminals of a microphone circuit by a pressure wave of magnitude p incident on the radiation plate 310. Equation 33 assumes that the MCM 300 is mounted on a rigid baffle and operated off-resonance, and ignores radiation impedance (losses from radiation impedance are discussed in the Background, above).

V/ Pa

Equation 33

[000148] Equation 33 can be rewritten so that OCRV sensitivity is expressed in terms of the operating point parameters (Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, V _{D }C, V _{D }C/VC). This is done using expressions for effective gap 302 height t _{ge }, radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }, and relevant gap 302 radius oc, in Equations 12, 18 and 21, respectively. Expressions for input capacitance C _{m } and clamped capacitance Co in terms of the operating point are provided in Equations 40 and 41, respectively.

Equation 34 [000149] The dimensionless normalized OCRV sensitivity h _{oce } is given as shown in Equation 35. The dimensionless normalized OCRV sensitivity h _{oce } is a function of the parasitic capacitance C _{p }, the aspect ratio p _{e }, and the operating point parameters voltage bias level V _{DC }/V _{C } and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }. The functions g(u), g'(u), and g”(u) are shown and described with respect to Equations 2-4 (above). Preferably, the parasitic capacitance C _{p } is relatively small compared to the input capacitance Co, for example, small enough that the effects of the parasitic capacitance can be ignored and/or do not prevent meeting design performance specifications. The ratio of the collapse voltage to the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } can be substituted for using Equation 10. The dimensionless normalized OCRV sensitivity h _{oce } is evaluated at the static equilibrium shown in Equation 23, but does not explicitly depend on the dimensions of the MCM 300 (such as relevant gap 302 radius oc) or material properties (such as Poisson’s ratio). The normalized static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{PN } equals the ratio of the static displacement X _{P } to the effective gap height t _{ge } at the operating point, as shown in Equation 36. Also, as shown in Equation 36, the normalized static displacement X _{PN } depends only on the relative bias level VDC/VC and the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }.

Equation 35 wherein p _{e }=l if the gap 302 is circle- or regular convex polygon-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio < _{¾ }/<¾ if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{Ci 2 }/a _{Ci \ }, if the gap 302 is regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped; XPN——at the operating point ) Equation 36

[000150] The OCRV sensitivity is a linear function of the ratio of the bias voltage to the static pressure difference between the gap 302 and the ambient VDC/PO- The sensitivity coefficient given in Equation 34 can be restated, using Equation 15 and holding the static pressure differential Po to be SAP, as shown in Equation 37.

[000151] As shown in Equation 37, the sensitivity coefficient can be described as 2 10 ^{5 } V/Pa per volt bias when the static pressure differential P _{0 } is SAP. Equations 8 and 9 show that the OCRV sensitivity is indirectly related to (though, as shown herein, not dependent on) the material properties of the radiation plate 310 through the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fpeg and V _{D }c· As a result, it can be seen that sensitivity increases (improves) as Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } and/or V _{D }c increases, and sensitivity decreases (worsens) as F _{Peb }/F _{Pe }g and/or V _{D }c decreases.

[000152] Irregular convex polygons and concave polygons can also be modelled by an equivalent circle with an area smaller than the area of the polygon, and with a parallel capacitance (in this case, resulting in a significantly higher ratio between parasitic capacitance C _{p } and clamped capacitance Co). Because of the additional parasitic capacitance, such non-circular geometries will generally have lower OCRV sensitivity than an MCM 300 with a circular gap 302, or a gap in the shape of a regular convex polygon.

[000153] In other words, an equivalent circular gap can be defined for irregular polygonal gap geometry, using an additional parallel capacitance to adapt the circular gap model described herein to the different geometry. [000154] Figure 9 shows a graph 900 of the relationship between normalized Open Circuit Receive Voltage Sensitivity (OCRV) and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }, where parasitic capacitance C _{p } divided by clamped capacitance C _{0 } equals zero, that is, C _{p }/C _{0 } = 0. This relationship is provided in Equation 38, which is obtained using Equations 15 and 34 (as described with respect to Equation 37). For an MCM 300 with a gap 302 containing a vacuum, when the ambient pressure is SAP, the static pressure difference between the gap 302 and the ambient is Po=101.325 kPa.

V

dB re Paxm

Equation 38

[000155] As shown in Figure 9, normalized OCRV sensitivity varies less than 5 dB for relative bias voltage levels VDC/VC between 0.4 and 0.9, and for possible levels of normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } (as described above with respect to Figure 4 and Equation 8). Also, as shown in Figure 9, the higher the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, the higher the normalized OCRV sensitivity.

[000156] At the elastic linearity threshold, that is, when oc = oc _{n min } and t _{m } ^{= }t _{m }_ i _{n }, the sensitivity is about 1 dB less than the OCRV sensitivity given in Equation 38. This is related to the elastic linearity constraint being an approximation (there is generally not a sudden transition in microphone performance characteristics at the boundary of the elastic linearity constraint as described herein). When the relevant radius-to-thickness ratio is lower than the maximum, the radiation plate 310 is relatively thicker and the MCM 300 maintains the OCRV sensitivity corresponding to the operating point, as described in Equation 38. [000157] Advantageously, increasing clamped capacitance and input capacitance reduces the effect of parasitic capacitance on OCRV sensitivity, and enables better performance in front-end electronics designs. Accordingly, if input capacitance C _{m } is large compared to parasitic capacitance, then the amount by which the parasitic capacitance reduces the OCRV sensitivity will be diminished (or eliminated). Also, if clamped capacitance is increased, microphone impedance will be lowered; in some embodiments, this can enable simpler pre-amplifier design, higher pre-amplifier gain, and lower pre-amplifier noise contribution. The deflected clamped capacitance Co _{d } (clamped capacitance when the radiation plate 310 is deflected by the static deflection X _{P }) at the operating point (F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, V _{DC }, V _{DC }/V _{C }) is related to the clamped capacitance Co as shown in Equation 39. The input capacitance C _{m } at the operating point is given in Equation 40 (see Equations

2-4).

[000158] The clamped capacitance Co for an MCM 300 with a radiation plate 310 relevant radius-to-thickness ratio and operating in the linearly

elastic regime is expressed in terms of the operating point parameters as shown in Equation 41. The clamped capacitance Co equals the area of the MCM 300 cell divided by the effective gap height t _{ge }, C _{0 } = Area/t _{ge }. Equation 41 is produced using this relationship, and using Equations 11, 20 and 21. The ratio of the collapse voltage to the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r } can be substituted for using Equation 10. The physical constant-dependent multiplier in Equation 41 has units of farads.

Equation 41 wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the gap 302 radius a if the gap 302 is circle-shaped;

wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the equivalent gap 302 radius <¾ _{q } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio < _{¾ }/<% and oc is the major gap 302 radius < _{¾ } and the minor gap 302 radius is a _{x } = a _{2 }/p _{e } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

and wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio <¾ _{q }2/<¾ _{qi }, and oc is the equivalent major gap 302 radius <¾ _{q }2 and the equivalent minor gap 302 radius <¾ _{qi }=<¾ _{q }2/p _{e } if the gap 302 is regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped.

[000159] In the case of an MCM 300 with a regular convex polygon shaped gap 302, the clamped capacitance C _{eq }o of an MCM 300 with an equivalent circular gap 302 is given by C _{eq0 } = e _{0 } —— . The clamped capacitance C _{pn }o of the

MCM 300 with the regular convex polygon shaped gap 302 is larger than the clamped capacitance of the MCM 300 with the equivalent circle-shaped gap 302:

r¾ h tan( /n)

Equation 42

Lge

C _{pn }o is 12.8% larger for a square gap 302 than for a circular gap 302, 5% larger for a hexagonal gap 302, and 2.7% larger for an octagonal gap 302. OCRV sensitivity of an MCM 300 with a regular convex polygon shaped gap 302 is less than the sensitivity predicted by Equation 35. The difference in clamped capacitance between MCMs 300 with regular convex polygon- shaped gaps 302 and MCMs 300 with circle- shaped gaps 302 can be incorporated into Equation 35 as part of parasitic capacitance in order to predict this lower sensitivity when calculating h _{0Ce }. Nevertheless, the difference in predicted sensitivity is only about 1 dB for a square shaped gap and less for higher values of n. The deflected clamped capacitance of an MCM 300 with a regular convex polygon shaped gap 302 at the operating point (Fpe _{b }/Fpe _{g }, VDC, VDC/VC) can be approximated as:

Equation 43 where C _{eq0 }g is the deflected clamped capacitance of the microphone with

equivalent circular gap. The input capacitance C _{Pm } can be calculated as shown in Equation 44 using the clamped capacitance C _{eq }o corresponding to an equivalent circle-shaped gap 302, which is determined as shown in Equation 45.

[000160] In the case of an MCM 300 with an ellipse-shaped gap 302, the undeflected clamped capacitance C _{e }o is determined as shown in Equation 46, and the plate compliance for peak equivalent circuit Cp _{em } is determined as shown in Equation 47.

Equation 46

-Pem Equation 47 where Cp _{m } is the compliance of a circular plate with same thickness t _{m }, and radius of «2, as shown in Equation 48 in terms of microphone dimensions, wherein Y _{0 } and s are the Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio of the plate material, respectively.

Equation 48

[000161] In the case of an MCM 300 with a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap 302, the clamped capacitance C _{elq }o corresponding to an equivalent ellipse-shaped gap 302 is given as:

Equation 49

This is smaller than the clamped capacitance C _{peln }o corresponding to a regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped gap 302. C _{pein }o is 12.8% larger for a rectangle shaped gap 302 than for an ellipse-shaped gap 302, and the difference is smaller for polygons with more sides. OCRV sensitivity of an MCM 300 with a regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped gap 302 is less than the sensitivity predicted by Equation 35. The difference in clamped capacitance between MCMs 300 with regular convex elliptic polygon-shaped gaps 302 and MCMs 300 with ellipse shaped gaps 302 can be incorporated into Equation 35 as part of parasitic capacitance in order to predict this lower sensitivity when calculating h _{oce }. Nevertheless, the difference in predicted sensitivity is only about 1 dB for a rectangle shaped gap 302 and less for higher values of n. The deflected clamped capacitance of the microphone with regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap 302 at the operating point (F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, V _{D }c, V _{D }c/Vc) can be approximated as

Equation 50 where C _{eiq0 } is the deflected clamped capacitance of an MCM 300 with an

equivalent circular gap 302. The input capacitance C _{Pin } can be calculated as shown in Equation 51 using the clamped capacitance C _{eiq }o corresponding to an equivalent ellipse-shaped gap 302, which is determined as shown in Equation 52.

Equation 52

[000162] As shown in Equation 41, C _{0 } is inversely proportional to the sixth power of the relevant radius-to-thickness ratio When the relevant

normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) is chosen to be 0.794 (— )

N Wn' N max corresponding to K =1.26, the relevant gap radius 302 oc is doubled (see Equation

31) and the input capacitance C _{m } is increased by a factor of four. As described above, because this does not change the operating point and obeys the elastic linearity constraint, it also does not change the OCRV sensitivity.

[000163] Equation 53 shows the physical constant-dependent multiplier for a silicon radiation plate 310, where differential static pressure P _{0 } equals SAP. pe _{0 } (l0 ^{4 }J _{15(1 }!° _{2)Po }) V _{dc }_„ = 12.33 x 1CT ^{15 }V _{DC } F Equation 53

[000164] Figure 10 shows a log-lin semi-log graph 1000 of the relationship between normalized input capacitance C _{m n } and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC, where the relevant normalized radius-to-thickness ratio equals the relevant maximum normalized radius-to-thickness ratio (— ) which enables linearly elastic

N

operation. The normalized input capacitance Cm_ _{n } is shown in Equation 54 in terms of the operating point. Equation 10 can be used to substitute for the ratio between the collapse voltage and the collapse voltage in a vacuum Vc/V _{r }.

Equation 54

[000165] Using Norton source transformation and Equation 34, the SCRC sensitivity can be obtained from the OCRV sensitivity as shown in Equation 55. The SCRC sensitivity is represented by Sis. Sis=Isc/p. Isc is short circuit current, and p represents incident pressure, meaning that Isc/p describes the strength (Sis) of the current induced between the shorted terminals of an MCM 300 by a pressure wave of magnitude p incident on the radiation plate 310. The SCRC sensitivity is related to the OCRV sensitivity according to Isc = -jcoC _{m }Voc· Here, w represents the radial frequency of the sound signal at which the sensitivity is evaluated. The (-jco) portion of the expression means that the SCRC sensitivity increases as the frequency increases. Fpeb p p _{e } A/Pa Equation 55 Fpeg C _{0 }

[000166] Equation 55 can be rewritten to obtain Equation 56, using Equations 40, 41 and 54. Equation 57 shows the expression for SCRC sensitivity of Equation 56, in units of dB re A/Pa, corresponding to decibels relative to amps per pascal.

Sis ^{= } {Svo— 20 log V _{DCn }} + 20 log C _{inn } + 40 log V _{DCn }

Equation 57

[000167] Equation 58 expresses the second term of Equation 57 using the corresponding operating point parameter, bias voltage V _{D }c· Equation 59 provides the value of the fifth (last) term of Equation 57 at 1 kHz operating frequency for a crystalline silicon radiation plate 310 at SAP. The unit S is Siemens.

201ogV _{DC n } =—157.1 + 201ogV _{DC } dB re (m) Equation 58

Equation 59

[000168] Equation 60 provides a simplified version of Equation 57, in terms of bias voltage V _{D }c and normalized input capacitance C _{m n }.

Sis = (Svo - 201ogV _{DC }) + 201og C _{in n } + 401ogV _{DC } - 202.2

Equation 60

[000169] Figure 11 shows a graph 1100 of the relationship between normalized Short Circuit Receive Current Sensitivity (Sis _{n }) and normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level V _{DC }/V _{C }- The normalized SCRC sensitivity is determined as shown in Equation 61.

Sis_ _{n } = Sis - 40 log V _{DC n } Equation 61

[000170] Figure 12 shows a graph 1200 of the relationship between normalized Short Circuit Receive Current Sensitivity (Sis _{n }) per square meter and normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, for example values of the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC. OCRV sensitivity is independent of the area of the MCM 300 (the area of the gap 302), whereas SCRC sensitivity depends on the area of the MCM 300. SCRC sensitivity per square meter Sis/m ^{2 } is obtained by normalizing SCRC to the area of the cell (SCRC is divided by the area of an MCM300 cell). Equation 62 is obtained using Equations 20, 40, 41, 54 and 55.

Equation 62 wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the gap 302 radius a if the gap 302 is circle-shaped;

wherein p _{e }=l and oc is the equivalent gap 302 radius a _{eq } if the gap 302 is regular convex polygon-shaped; wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio a _{2 }/a and oc is the major gap 302 radius a _{2 } if the gap 302 is ellipse-shaped;

wherein p _{e } is an aspect ratio <¾ _{q2 }/<¾ _{q i }, and oc is equal to the equivalent major gap radius a _{eq2 } if the gap comprises a regular convex elliptic polygon shape;

[000171] The constant term in Equation 62, can be evaluated as

shown in Equation 63, taking the static pressure differential Po to be SAP.

Axsec

= -158 dB re Equation 63 Paxm ^{2 }

[000172] SCRC sensitivity per unit area (Sis/m ^{2 }) is independent of material properties and the bias voltage V _{D }c, and provides better guidance for the choice of operational parameters than unmodified SCRC sensitivity Sis. This is because, generally, the larger the MCM 300 cell area, the better the sensitivity of the MCM 300 cell.

[000173] Sensitivity can also be increased by using multiple MCM 300 cells which are electrically connected in parallel.

[000174] A wide variety of combinations of less than all operating point parameters can be specified at the beginning of MCM 300 design so that the specified values are sufficient to determine the corresponding remaining MCM 300 characteristics. That is, combinations can be specified of a (small) subset of MCM 300 dimensions, MCM 300 OCRV and SCRC sensitivities, and/or other MCM 300 characteristics, and the remaining MCM characteristics can be determined from the selected values. This is enabled by the relationships between operating point parameters and MCM 300 properties as described above; as well as by the use of normalized dimensions, which are independent of properties of materials to be used in MCM manufacture; and by the scaling properties described with respect to Equations 29-32, which can be used to adjust the relevant gap 302 radius oc as desired (within limits, as described above). For example, an MCM 300 can be designed to obtain a specific OCRV sensitivity Svo, a specified dimension (e.g., relevant gap 302 radius oc, gap 302 height t _{g } or radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m }), a specified bias voltage V _{D }c, or a specified value for one or more other selected variables; while remaining within parametric ranges corresponding to an MCM 300 capable of maintaining linearly elastic, uncollapsed operation.

[000175] Advantageously, the design process can be initiated by choosing a normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } and a relative bias voltage V _{DC }/V _{C } which will make uncollapsed operation highly robust. Generally, the higher the normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } and relative bias voltage VDC/VC, the higher the normalized OCRV sensitivity of the MCM 300. For example, the OCRV sensitivity at _{; } — (0.9,0.9)is almost 40 dB higher

v Peg v _{c } ) than the OCRV sensitivity at _{; } — (0.1, 0.1) (see Equations 2-4, 10, 15,

v Peg v _{c } )

35, 38 and 41), holding other variables constant when the operating point parameters are changed as stated. Similarly, the minimum relevant gap 302 radius

°c _{min } ( ^{as } described above) will be approximately 30 times larger at Fpeb ^{V }DC

Fpeg V _{C }

(0.9, 0.9) than at — (o.1,0.1) (see Equations 3 and 22-25), holding

v Peg v _{c } )

other variables constant when the operating point parameters are changed as stated. However, generally, the lower the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg } and relative bias voltage V _{DC }/V _{C }, the more stable the MCM 300 will be against static pressure variations, production tolerances, and variations in bias voltage conditions. The design processes described herein enable various types of design objectives to be met efficiently and with effective MCM 300 performance results. [000176] Note, however, that sensitivity will generally be poor for MCMs 300 with normalized static mechanical force and relative bias voltage levelO-^, ^· ) < (0.1, 0.1). Also, MCMs 300 with normalized static mechanical v Peg v _{c } ) force and relative bias voltage level > (0.85,0.9) (respectively) will be

prone to collapse.

[000177] An example process for designing an MCM 300, starting with a selected OCRV sensitivity, normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/Fp _{eg }, and relative bias voltage V _{DC }/V _{C } is as follows: A gap 302 pressure, an OCRV sensitivity, a normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, and a relative bias voltage level VDC/VC are selected, and K is set to equal one (K=l, see Equations 29-32). For example, for an MCM 300 with a gap 302 containing vacuum, these selections can comprise an OCRV sensitivity of -60 dB at SAP, a normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } =0.7, and a relative bias voltage level V _{D }c/Vc=0.7.

[000178] Normalized dimensions, normalized OCRV sensitivity and bias voltage VDC are determined. For K=l, Equations 22 and 23 can be used to determine that the normalized maximum ratio between the relevant gap radius and the radiation plate thickness (— ) = 0.986. As described above, relevant gap

radius oc and radiation plate thickness t _{m } are inversely related to the ratio between relevant gap radius and radiation plate thickness . Therefore, an MCM 300 in which (—) = (—) (K ^{= }l) is the smallest MCM 300 which satisfies the w _{N N-max }

elastic linearity constraint and has the specified sensitivity when operating at the specified normalized static mechanical force F _{Peb }/F _{Peg } =0.7 and relative bias voltage level VDC/VC = 0.7 (in the described example), and the corresponding bias voltage VDC (the minimum bias voltage VDC to produce the specified OCRV sensitivity; as described above, increasing bias voltage VDC increases OCRV sensitivity). That is, normalized dimensions will be the minimum normalized dimensions. Equations 10 and 25-27 can then be used to determine these normalized minimum dimensions: normalized relevant gap radius oc _{n } = 2.198; normalized radiation plate thickness t _{m n } =2.221 ; normalized effective gap height tge_n=3.00; and normalized OCRV sensitivity Svo ^{_ }201ogV _{D }c_ _{n } = 63.64 dB. The normalized bias voltage VDC_ _{II } and bias voltage VDC can be determined using the normalized OCRV sensitivity Svo ^{_ }201ogV _{D }c_ _{n }: VDC_ _{II } =6.573 10 ^{7 } m and VDC = 47 V.

[000179] The dimensions determined are de-normalized for a selected radiation plate 310 material, to produce physical dimensions of an MCM 300 with a vacuum gap 302 (the selected gap pressure) and the selected sensitivity and operating point parameters. In the described example, the normalized dimensions correspond to de-normalized physical dimensions as follows (see Equations 10, 12, 16 and 21): radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } = 10.42 pm, and effective gap 302 height t _{ge } = 2.82 pm; and for a crystalline silicon radiation plate 310, with Young’s modulus Yo of 149 GPa and Poisson’s ratio s of 0.17, relevant gap 302 radius oc = 366.1 pm (in this example, input capacitance C _{m } = 2.2 pF). If the radiation plate 310 is made of a harder material, for example a material with Young’s modulus Y _{0 } of 250 GPa and Poisson’s ratio s of 0.14, relevant gap 302 radius oc = 413 pm. Changing the radiation plate 310 hardness does not change radiation plate 310 thickness t _{m } or effective gap 302 height t _{ge }.

[000180] For a regular convex polygon shaped gap 302 with 4 sides the relevant gap 302 radius oc = 366.1 pm means that the radius of the equivalent circle is a _{eq }= 366.1 pm, thus using Equation 5 resulting in an apothem r _{4 } of 344.6 pm (similarly a regular convex polygon shaped gap 302 with 8 sides will have an apothem r _{8 } = 361.3 pm). [000181] For an elliptic gap 302 with an aspect ratio p _{e } = 2 and relevant gap radius oc 366.1 pm gives a major radius a _{2 } =

603.3 pm and a minor radius 301.7 pm, where

(-W) = (- ^{t }m') _{max }

[000182] When K is selected = 1.648 one can

obtain a larger ellipse that gives the same S _{V }o at 47 V with the following changes in oc _{new }= K ^{3 } oc _{min }= 1638 mih and t _{m new } = K ^{4 }t _{m } = 76.85 pm, which give a _{2 }= 2700 pm and a _{L } = 1350 p for the major and minor radii, respectively.

[000183] For a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap 302 with an aspect ratio p _{e } = 2 and 4 sides the relevant gap radius oc = 366.1 pm gives an equivalent major radius a _{2sq }= 603.3 pm and an equivalent minor radius a _{leq }= 301.7 pm, which translate to major apothem r _{4-2 } = 288.3 pm and to minor apothem r _{4-l } = 284.0 pm (similarly a regular convex elliptic polygon shaped gap 302 with an aspect ratio p _{e } = 2 and 8 sides will have a major apothem r _{8- }2 = 595.3 pm and a minor apothem r _{8-i } = 297.7 pm).

[000184] The gap 302 height t _{g } and the total insulator thickness t, = t, i+t,2 of the first and second insulator layers 316, 316 are determined from the effective gap 302 height t _{ge } using Equation 1. The gap height t _{g } is preferably large enough to enable, with a margin, the radiation plate 310 to be displaced by the static displacement of the center of the radiation plate 310 X _{P } without the radiation plate 310 collapsing. That is, a“safe” gap 302 height t _{g } should be chosen, meaning sufficient room should be given to compensate for variations in operating conditions, such as variations in bias voltage V _{D }c (and therefore relative bias voltage level VDC/VC) due to variations in a voltage supply providing the bias voltage, or changes in atmospheric pressure due to weather or pressure waves (sounds) incident on the radiation plate 310. In the described example, normalized static displacement — = ) = (0.7)(1.058) = 0.74. This results in static t _{ge } F _{peg } W _{N-max }

displacement Xp = 2.09 pm. As determined above, effective gap height t _{ge } = 2.82 pm. If t _{g } = 2.50 pm is chosen as a safe gap 302 height, then the total insulator thickness f is limited by 2.82 pm- 2.50 pm= 0.32 pm. If an

insulator material is selected for both insulator layers 314, 316 with a relative permittivity of 4, then total insulator thickness f = 1.28 pm.

[000185] The disclosed innovations, in various embodiments, provide one or more of at least the following advantages. However, not all of these advantages result from every one of the innovations disclosed, and this list of advantages does not limit the variously claimed inventive scope.

• Microphone dimensions for optimal microphone sensitivity can be specified using a limited number of selected operating parameters and/or dimensions and/or other microphone characteristics;

• uses a sealed gap, avoiding gap contamination;

• sealed gap enables microphone operation, without damage to the microphone, down to tens of meters under water;

• self-noise of an MCM is limited to radiation impedance, so that SNR is approximately 94 dBA;

• suitable for use in various airborne consumer and professional products, such as computers, ear phones, hearing aids, mobile phones, wireless equipment and wideband precision acoustic measurement and recording systems; • can be fabricated at low cost using standard MEMS processes;

• microphone dimensions, sensitivity and other performance characteristics are independent of materials used to fabricate the radiation plate and insulator layers; and

• avoids use of finite element analysis to optimize microphone dimensions.

[000186] Sealed gap capacitive MEMS microphone embodiments, as disclosed herein, has very low self-noise, and can be designed for robust uncollapsed, linear elastic operation with high (or optimal) OCRV sensitivity. The inventors have discovered that MCM performance (sensitivity) depends on a small number of operating parameters: static mechanical force, bias voltage, and relative bias voltage level. These parameters - or dimensions or other microphone properties dependent on these parameters - can be specified at the start of a design process. This enables a sort of design-in-reverse, allowing a designer to pick a desired performance profile of an MCM; microphone dimensions (relevant gap radius/radiation plate radius, radiation plate thickness, and gap height) and other characteristics of the MCM are then determined by the selected performance profile. Radiation plate dimensions can then be scaled to improve robustness of linearly elastic, uncollapsed operation, and to improve SCRC sensitivity. Generally, these microphones are as durable with respect to temperature and impact as pressure compensated MEMS microphones. Further, these microphones can be manufactured using tools and processes used to manufacture pressure compensated MEMS microphones, making manufacture relatively inexpensive. Modifications and Variations

[000187] As will be recognized by those skilled in the art, the innovative concepts described in the present application can be modified and varied over a tremendous range of applications, and accordingly the scope of patented subject matter is not limited by any of the specific exemplary teachings given. It is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.

[000188] While certain variables are described herein as depending “only” on certain other variables, this convention explicitly ignores variations in as-fabricated parts, such as variations due to process variability, variations in process environment or operational environment, and other factors not addressed herein. These factors will generally not affect the optimality of results with respect to particular operating points, as described herein.

[000189] In some embodiments, an MCM comprises an electret. In some MCM embodiments using an electret, the radiation plate can comprise a polymeric material.

[000190] The Electret and Performance reference shows that an electret layer in an MCM results in a DC bias voltage V _{E } that adds to the electrically induced bias voltage VDC, resulting in a total bias voltage of VDC+VE. The magnitude and polarity of effective electret voltage V _{E } depend on the polarization of the trapped charges in the electret layer(s). When there is no external bias voltage, i.e. V _{D }c ^{= } 0 volts, a static bias is provided by V _{E } if the electrical termination is appropriate. This is particularly useful in transducer reception applications. Increased effective bias voltage as a result of an electret can be used to increase the sensitivity of the MCM.

[000191] In some embodiments, a membrane is used as a vibrating element. [000192] In some embodiments, ambient pressure can be taken to be between 70 kPa, corresponding to approximately the lowest normal pressure in an airplane cabin, and 110 kPa, corresponding to a highest atmospheric pressure measured on Earth.

[000193] In some embodiments, an MCM uses a single insulator layer of thickness f = t,i + t _{l2 }.

[000194] In some embodiments, an MCM with amplification can achieve a signal-to-noise ratio of 75 dB or more.

[000195] In some embodiments, an electret is used in addition to or instead of an applied bias voltage.

[000196] In some embodiments, an MCM scaled pursuant to Equations 26-29 will have SCRC sensitivity K ^{6 } times greater than an un-scaled MCM.

[000197] In some embodiments using a number N MCMs electrically connected in parallel, the connected MCMs together have N times greater SCRC sensitivity than a single one of the MCMs.

[000198] While “optimum” sensitivity and maintaining “optimum” sensitivity (or other determined sensitivity) are referred to herein, one of ordinary skill in the arts of capacitive MEMS microphones will understand that fabrication tolerances, variations in the static pressure difference between the ambient and the gap (such as between the Dead Sea and Lhasa), material imperfections causing variations of material elastic properties, variations from the operating point during operation, the approximate nature of the elastic linearity constraint, and other differences between models and physicalized embodiments can cause variation of an MCM’s sensitivity from the“optimum” sensitivity.

[000199] In some embodiments, the operating point is selected by selecting up to three of the following: the relevant gap radius oc, the radiation plate thickness t _{m }, the effective gap height t _{ge }, the optimum OCRV sensitivity, an SCRC sensitivity, the normalized static mechanical force Fp _{eb }/Fp _{eg }, the bias voltage VDC, and the relative bias voltage level VDC/VC.

[000200] In some embodiments, MCM microphones can be connected in parallel to yield the same OCRV sensitivity as a single element, but with higher SCRC sensitivity and higher input capacitance.

[000201] In some embodiments, MCM microphones can be connected in parallel to yield higher OCRV sensitivity and lower SCRC sensitivity and input capacitance.

[000202] In some embodiments, an ellipse-shaped gap (elliptic gap) is non-circular.

[000203] Additional general background, which helps to show variations and implementations, may be found in the following publications, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference: U.S. Pat. No. 6,075,867; U.S. Pat. No. 7,955,250; U.S. Pat. No. 8,288,971 ; U.S. Pat. No. 9,363,589; U.S. Pat. No. 9,451,375; U.S. Pat. No. 9,560,430; U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 2001/0019945; U.S. Pat. Pub. 2014/0339657; U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 2014/0083296; and U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 2015/0163572; H. Koymen, A. Atalar, E. Aydogdu, C. Kocaba§, H.K. Oguz, S. Olfum, A. Ozgiirliik, A. TJnliigedik, “An improved lumped element nonlinear circuit model for a circular CMUT cell,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, Vol. 59, no. 8, pp. 1791-1799, Aug. 2012; H. Koymen, A. Atalar, I. Koymen, A.S. Ta§delen, A. TJnliigedik, “Unbiased Charged Circular CMUT Microphone: Lumped Element Modeling and Performance”, IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, Vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 60-71, Nov. 14, 2017; A. TJnliigedik, A.S. Ta§delen, A. Atalar, and H. Koymen,“Designing Transmitting CMUT Cells for Airborne Applications,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, Vol. 61, pp. 1899-1910, 2014; M. Funding la Cour, T. L. Christiansen, J.A. Jensen, and E.V. Thomsen,“Electrostatic and Small-Signal Analysis of CMUTs With Circular and Square Anisotropic Plates,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, vol. 62, no. 8, pp. 1563-1579, 2015; H. Koymen, A. Atalar and H. K. Oguz, “Designing Circular CMUT Cells Using CMUT Biasing Chart,” 2012 IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium Proceedings pp. 975-978, Dresden, October, 2012; M. Engholm, T. Pedersen, and E.V. Thomsen,“Modeling of plates with multiple anisotropic layers and residual stress,” Sens and Act. A: Phys., vol. 240, pp. 70-79, Apr. 2016; and M. Rahman, J. Hernandez, S. Chowdhury, “An Improved Analytical Method to Design CMUTs With Square Diaphragms,” IEEE Trans. Ultrason. Ferroelectr. Freq. Control, vol. 260, no. 4, Apr. 2013.

[000204] None of the description in the present application should be read as implying that any particular element, step, or function is an essential element which must be included in the claim scope: THE SCOPE OF PATENTED SUBJECT MATTER IS DEFINED ONLY BY THE ALLOWED CLAIMS. Moreover, none of these claims are intended to invoke paragraph six of 35 USC section 112 unless the exact words“means for” are followed by a participle.

[000205] The claims as filed are intended to be as comprehensive as possible, and NO subject matter is intentionally relinquished, dedicated, or abandoned.

[000206] As shown and described herein, the inventors have discovered a variety of new and useful approaches to capacitive MEMS microphones with a sealed gap, and design of such microphones.

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