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Title:
A VALVE EQUIPPED WITH A POSITION DETECTOR AND A MICROPUMP INCORPORATING SAID VALVE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1992/004569
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A valve is formed from a silicon wafer (20). A position detector having a first electrical contact (54) formed on a glass support (32) mounted on the back face of the wafer (20), a second electrical contact fixed to the wafer (20) and a electrical impedance measurement circuit (resistance or capacitance according to the embodiment) between the two electrical contacts is provided to detect by contact the position of the valve and hence reveal any malfunction. Useful in micropump for the injection of medicaments.

Inventors:
Van Lintel, Harald T. G. (Voortsweg 20, CH Enschede, NL-7523, NL)
Application Number:
PCT/EP1991/001586
Publication Date:
March 19, 1992
Filing Date:
August 21, 1991
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WESTONBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL LIMITED (43 45 Northumberland Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, IE)
Van Lintel, Harald T. G. (Voortsweg 20, CH Enschede, NL-7523, NL)
International Classes:
F04B43/04; F15C5/00; F16K15/14; F16K37/00; F16K99/00; (IPC1-7): A61M5/142; F04B43/04; F15C5/00; F16K37/00
Foreign References:
FR2639085A11990-05-18
EP0387439A11990-09-19
US4585209A1986-04-29
US4562741A1986-01-07
EP0339528A11989-11-02
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lamoureux B. (I C B Ingénieurs Conseils en Brevets SA, Passage Max Meuron 6, Neuchâtel, CH-2001, CH)
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Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A valve having a first wafer (20) machined to define a valve body (26) and a second wafer (2) mounted on said first wafer to define a valve seat, which is characterized in that it comprises a position detector having a first electrical contact (54) facing the back of the valve body at such a distance that there is a mechanical contact between the valve body and said first electrical contact when the valve is in the open position, a second electrical contact (46, 48, 74) disposed such that it forms an electrical impedance with said first electrical contact, influenced by said mechanical contact, and a detection circuit (58, 60, 62, 72) sensitive to the electrical impedance between said electrical contacts.
2. A valve according to claim 1, characterized in that a support (32) is mounted on said first wafer (20) facing the back face of the valve body, said support accomodating said first elec trical contact (54).
3. A valve according to claim 1 or claim 2, characterized in that the back face of the valve comprises a projection (56) opposite said first electrical contact.
4. A valve according to any of claims 1 to 3, characterized in that said second electrical contact is fixed or connected to said first wafer.
5. A valve according to claim 4, characterized in that the second electrical contact is a second electrode (68) placed opposite the first electrical contact, the detection circuit (72) being sensitive to the electrical resistance betwee said electrical contacts.
6. A valve according to claim 4, in which said first wafer (20) is of a semiconductor material, characterized in that said second electrical contact (46) is connected to said first wafer and conduc tively insulated from said first electrical contact (54) and in that the detection circuit is sensitive to the electrical capacitance between said electrical contacts.
7. A valve according to any one of claims 2 and 3, characte¬ rized in that said second electrical contact is provided on said support, facing the back face of the valve body and being electrically isolated from said first electrical contact.
8. A valve according to any one of claims 1 to 7, characterized in that the detection comprises an alternating current generator.
9. A valve according to any one of claims 1 to 8, having a membrane (42) and a sealing ring (44), at least the membrane being provided with a layer inducing a pretension keeping the valve in the closed position, in the absence of external influence, charac¬ terized in that at least the sealing ring is so machined that, if the membrane layer would be omitted, the valve would be in the open position in the absence of external influence.
10. A valve according to claim 9, in which a detector gap (53) is machined by etching of the valve body, characterized in that said machining is done simultaneously with, and at least partially by, said machining of the sealing ring.
11. A micropump having a first wafer (20) machined so as to define with at least one second wafer (2) mounted face to face to the first wafer, a pump chamber (24) having means for taking in and driving out a fluid in said pump chamber, characterized in that it comprises, downstream from the pump chamber, at least one valve according to any one of claims 1 to 10.
12. A micropump having a first wafer (20) machined so as to define with at least one second wafer (2) mounted face to face to the first wafer, a pump chamber (24), an inlet valve (22) by means of which said pump chamber can selectively communicate with an inlet (4) of the micropump, and an outlet valve (26) by means of which said pump chamber can selectively communicate with an outlet (6) of the micropump, means (30, 46, 48, 50) being provided to induce a periodic variation in the volume of said pump chamber, characterized in that the outlet valve (26) is as defined in any one of claims 1 to 10.
Description:
A VALVE EQUIPPED WITH A POSITION DETECTOR AND A MICROPUMP INCORPORATING SAID VALVE

The present invention relates to a valve equipped with a posi¬ tion detector of the type in which the body of the valve is formed by machining a silicon plate by such micromachining techniques as photolithographic technology or similar technologies and a micropump incorporating such a valve.

These micropumps may be used notably for the in situ adminis¬ tration of medicaments, the miniaturization of the micropump optio¬ nally permitting the permanent implantation thereof into the body. These pumps enable a precise dosage of small quantities of fluids to be injected.

These micropumps are in particular described in the article "A piezoelectric micropump base on micromachining of silicon" by H. van Lintel et al . which appeared in "Sensors and Actuators", No 15, 1988, pages 153-167. These pumps essentially comprise a stack of three wafers, i.e. is a silicon wafer disposed between two glass wafers.

The silicon wafer is etched in order to form a cavity which together with one of the glass wafers defines a pump chamber, an inlet valve and an outlet valve, communicating the pump chamber respectively with an inlet channel and an outlet channel, and a regulating valve. A control element, e. g. a piezoelectric disc, is provided on one wall of the chamber. This piezoelectric disc may by deformed when it is subjected to an electrical voltage which causes deformation of the wall of the pump chamber and hence variation in the volume thereof.

The micropump functions as follows. At rest the inlet and outlet valves are in the closed position. When an electrical voltage is applied the wall of the pump chamber deforms and the pressure increases therein until the outlet valve opens. The fluid contained in the pump chamber is then driven towards the outlet channel. During this phase the inlet valve is held closed by the pressure prevailing in the pump chamber. When, however, the electrical

potential is removed or reversed, the pressure therein diminishes. This causes closure of the outlet valve and opening of the entry valve. Fluid is thereby drawn into the pump chamber.

As already indicated above, these micropumps are useful espe¬ cially for the administration of medicaments. It is therefore important to be able to monitor the correct functioning of these micropumps. Moreover in some cases the pump flow rate may drop considerably, e. g. when bubbles of air are present in the pump chamber, or when the pressure in the exit channel becomes too high.

10 Obviously, such malfunctioning should be detected. It has been noted that the movement of a valve might be used for such a purpose. Therefore, an object of the present invention is to provide a valve having a position detector which is, in addition, simple, viable and inexpensive.

, 5 More specifically, it is an object of the invention to provide a valve comprising a first wafer and a second wafer bonded to the first wafer to define the valve seat, which is characterized in that it comprises a position detector having a first electrical contact facing the back face of the valve body at such a distance that there

20 is a mechanical contact between the valve body and the first electrical contact when the valve is in the open position, a second electrical contact so that is forms an electrical impedance with said first electrical contact, influenced by said mechanical con¬ tact, and a detection circuit sensitive to the electrical impedance

25 between said electrical contacts.

The mechanical contact between the valve body and the first electrical contact thus ensures the largest possible electrical impedance difference between the open and closed positions of the valve.

30 It is also an object of the invention to provide a micropump equipped with such a position detector.

The characteristic features and advantages of the invention are better illustrated by the following description give for purpose of example, but which is not l miting and with reference to the accom-

-r pagnying drawings in which :

Figure 1 shows a schematic cross-section along the line I-I of a micropump having a valve according to the invention,

Figure 2 is a top view along the line 11—11 of the interme¬ diate wafer of the micropump shown in Figure 1,

Figures 3 and 4 shows in section a valve according to a first embodiment of the invention, in the closed and open positions respectively,

Figure 5 shows a schematic representation of a detection circuit suitable for use with a valve of Figures 3 and 4,

Figures 6 and 7 show in section a valve according to a second embodiment of the invention, in the closed and open positions

10 respectively,

Figure 8 is a schematic representation of a detection circuit suitable for use with the valve of Figures 6 and 7,

Figure 9a shows in section a valve according to a third embodiment of the invention, and Figure 9b is a top view along line 1f . IX-IX of Figure 9a, and

Figure 10 shows in section a valve according to a fourth embodiment of the invention.

Reference is made first of all to Figures 1 and 2 which show a micropump having a valve according to the invention. ?n It should be noted that for the sake of clarity the thicknesses of the various wafers in the micropumps have been greatly exaggera¬ ted in the drawings.

This micropump has a base wafer 2 of for example glass which is pierced by two channels 4 and 6 which constitute the inlet and „ outlet channels respectively of the pump. These channels communicate respectively with the connectors 8 and 10.

The connector 8 leads to a tube 12 which is itself joined to a reservoir 14 containing the liquid substance to be pumped. The reservoir is sealed by a pierced cap and a movable piston 16 isola¬ 0 ting the useful volume of the reservoir 14 from the exterior. This reservoir may contain a medicament, for example in the situation where the pump is to be used to inject a precise dosage of this medicament into the human body. In this application the micropump may be carried on the patient's body or may be implanted.

The outlet connector 10 may be connected to an injection needle 5 (not shown) which is connected thereto by a tube 18. The use in this manner of the micropump is particularly suitable for treating

certain forms of cancer with peptides, where medication is prefera¬ bly given in a precise dosage at regular intervals in small amounts. Another possible application is the injection of insulin for the treatment of diabetics.

A wafer 20 of silicon or any other material capable of being etched by photol thographic technology is bonded to the glass wafer 2. This wafer 20 is machined so as to form an inlet valve 22, a pump chamber 24 and an outlet valve 26 (which forms the regulating valve). A glass sealing wafer 28 is bonded to the wafer 20 above the inlet valve 22, a piezolectric disc 30 to the wall of the pump chamber 24 and a glass support 32 above the outlet valve.

The inlet valve 22 comprises a membrane 34 of substantially circular form with near its center an orifice 36 and, adjacent to the side of an inlet channel 4, an annular sealing ring 38. This latter is covered with a thin oxide layer which confers on the membrane 36 a certain preconstraint tending to press the sealing ring towards the glass wafer 2, this latter thereby serving as the valve seat 22. When this valve is open, the inlet channel 4 is in communication with the pump chamber 24 by the orifice 36 and another orifice 40.

The outlet valve 26 also has a membrane 42 of generally circular form which is without any orifice therein and an annular sealing ring 44 which, as is the case with the inlet valve, is covered with a thin oxide layer. Opening this outlet valve enables direct com u- 5 nication between the pumping chamber 24 and the outlet channel 6.

Finally, it should be noted that the piezoelectric disc which brings about the variations in volume of the pump chamber, is connected by two electrical conductors 46 and 48 through electrodes (not shown) situated on the faces of the piezoelectric disc to a Q voltage source 50.

In accordance with the invention the outlet valve 26 is equipped with a position detector. The projection 56 shown on the reverse face (i.e. the side that, in this embodiment, is not in contact with the fluid to be pumped) of the valve as well as the support 32 form part of this detector. Tv/o special embodiments of the detector will now be described.

A first embodiment in which the detector is of the capacity type is shown in Figures 3 to 5.

Notice that for good shape control, the effective lateral membrane dimensions are defined by the shallow etching from the front of the valve. Also, here the valve has thermal oxide on the membrane as well. This provides sufficient pre-tension with thin membranes. With thin membranes, the deflection can be large.

The support 32, which may for example be of glass, may have a groove 52 on its face bonded to the wafer 20. An electrode 54 for example of Au, Al or of Indium-Tin Oxide (ITO) is formed on the support 32. The distance between the electrode 54 and the upper part of the back face of the valve 26, that is to say the surface of the projection 56, is such that there is a mechanical contact between the valve body and the electrode 54 when the valve is in the open position. In order to reduce parasitic capacitance between the electrode 54 and the silicon wafer 20 one may increase the distance between them by also forming a groove 55 in the wafer 20. The upper surface of the projection 56 may be insulated, for example using a thin oxide layer (in the order of 1 ym thickness).

Thus, when the valve 26 is closed (Figure 3) the distance between the valve and the electrode 54 (the detector gap 53) is of the order of 5 μm, whereas when the valve 26 is open (figure 4) the valve and the electrode are in contact with each other.

The schematic circuit shown in Figure 5 shows the position of the valve. It comprises a resistor 58 connected on the one hand to an alternating current source and on the other hand to an electrode 54; a transistor 60 of which the collector is connected to a source of direct current at 3 V and the base to the electrode 54; and a resistor 62 place between the transmitter of the transistor 60 and ground. The valve 26 acts as switch 64, which according to the device used, may be either of a resistive and/or capacitive nature. The silicon plate 20 is directly connected to the apparatus or, as shown, by way of a conductor 46 of the control circuit of the piezoelectric disc; in this case, the capacitor 66 represents the capacity therebetween.

In this embodiment, the conductor 46 forming one of the elec¬ trical contacts is connected to the wafer 20. It could equally well

only be connected electrically thereto, for example to form an air capacitor.

A high-frequency signal, for example of 30 KHz (so that the detection signal is sufficiently modulated as a function of the position of the valve, taking into account the impedances of the components and to avoid interference with the control signal of the piezoelectric disc) is applied to the electrode 54 by way of the resistor 58. The signal detected by the transmitter of the transis¬ tor 60 is a function of the open or closed position of the valve. The duration of the signal also enables distinction to be made between malfunctioning due to the presence of an air bubble in the pump chamber, which could result in incomplete opening, but also a rapid reclosing of the valve after it had been opened by a signal applied to the piezoelectric disc, and malfunctioning due to eleva- ted pressure in the outlet channel of the micropump resulting in prolonged opening of the valve.

The pump may also be constructed or operated in such a way that during normal pumping the valve does not reach the open position, but only when the pressure on the outlet is too high. In such a case, one takes full advantage of the invention only for detecting a too high outlet pressure or blockage.

A circuit of the passive detection type may also be employed in certain cases. When a control signal is applied to the piezoelectric disc (ca. 130 V DC signal) a short interference signal appears on the transmitter of the transistor 60 when the valve is in the open position (Figure 4). However, this signal is less reproducible. To eliminate this signal, one may add a small capacitor in series with the detection line.

A second embodiment in which the position detector is of the resistor type is shown in Figures 6 to 8.

Figures 6 and 7 are identical to Figures 4 and 5 except that a supplementary electrode 68 is provided on the back face of the valve 26 opposite the electrode 54. This electrode may for example be of Au, Al or Indium-Tin Oxide, and it is connected to a conductor 70 of the same material which is accomodated in groove 52.

A detection circuit is shown schematically in Figure 8. It comprises a resistor 72 placed between the electrode 54 and a

voltage source, for example alternating voltage at 30 kHz. The presence or absence of an alternating voltage on the conductor 54 indicates the open or closed position of the valve. As with the circuit of Figure 5, detection of the closing of the circuit and measurement of the duration of this closing gives information on the presence and nature of malfunctioning of the micropump.

In the embodiment of Figures 6 and 7, one of the electrodes is provided on the back face of the valve. Thhere is a way to avoid an independent forming or deposition of the electrodes; one may simply provide both electrodes on support 32, spaced apart one from the other in such a way that they are both in contact with the valve when the latter is in the open position. Such a structure is shown on Figure 9a, on which same elements as the ones of Figures 6 and 7 bear the same reference numerals. The electrodes 54 and 74 may have a semi-disc shape, as shown on Figure 9b; the electrical connections are made through grooves (like groove 52 in figures 3 and 6) or through electroplated through holes 76, 78 in support 32.

The detection of the open position of the valve, i.e. when the valve is in contact with the electrodes may be of resistive type or capacitive type. In the latter case, the contact is less critical and has the advantage of a strongly reduced by-pass current through the liquid, compared to the first embodiment.

The micropumps according to the invention are intended to be used notably for the injection of medicaments. Such micropumps require therefore a precise control of the opening and of the closing of the valves. However, while it is relatively easy to control the depth of the etching of the silicon wafer, it is more difficult to control the thickness of the membrane of the valves since the thickness of a silicon wafer is not constant over its whole surface, but on the contrary shows certain variations. The thickness of the membrane governs the amount of pre-tension and hence ultimately the parameters for the opening and the closing of the valves. This is particularly important in the case of the outlet valve which requires a greater pre-tension. The degree of this pre-tension depends notably on the pre-ten¬ sion due to the the thickness of the oxide layer on the sealing ring. This pre-tension corresponds to the third power of membrane

thickness. It is added to the pre-tension which is caused by, for example, an oxide layer on the membrane and which also depends on the membrane thickness, but there only to the first power. In this conventional case, a too thick a membrane will cause an increase in both the pre-tension due to the oxide on the sealing ring, and in the pre-tension due to the oxide on the membrane. The variation of the overall pre-tension is the sum of both pre-tension variations. The pre-tension caused by the oxide on the sealing ring can play an important role in this variation, due to the third order variation.

Figure 10 shows a fourth embodiment of the invention in which the pre-tension is less dependant on the membrane thickness, and in which an additional etching step to obtain this is used to provide all or part of the detector gap 53. By way of example, the detector is of capacitive type, as in the embodiment of Figures 3 to 5, with the electrode 54 on support 32 being connected to the detector circuit via an electroplated through hole 76 provided in support 32. In this embodiment there has been etching of the sealing ring in a additional etching step (during which the membrane may also been etched, and in this case has been etched and that on both sides) and the oxide layer on it is less thick than the depth of the etching, so that the effective thickness of the sealing ring is less than its nominal thickness. Thus if there is oxide on the sealing ring only, and not on the membrane, the sealing ring will not come into contact with the valve seat. In the same way as in the conventional case, it is clear that the sealing ring creates a pre-tension, now a negative one, whose absolute value is equal to the pressure which would have been exerted on the membrane for the sealing ring to be flush with the valve seat. But in this case an oxide layer is also formed on the membrane (oxide layer can be provided on one side of the membra¬ ne or, as shown in Figure 10, on both sides), the pre-tension to which the valve is subjected will be equal to the pre-tension caused by the curvature of the membrane diminished by this negative pre¬ tension. In this situation, the variation in the membrane oxide pre-tension is approximatively compensated by the variation in the negative sealing ring gap pre-tension.

The dimensions are chosen so that the overall pre-tension remains substantially constant for a certain range of membrane

thicknesses. Moreover, the dimensions may be chosen such as to match the required detector gap with the additional etching in order to obtain the required gap with the same additional etching step. In this example, the projection 56 is thereto etched as well, simulta¬ neously.

Simulations have shown that micropumps equipped with an outlet valve according to the embodiment of Figure 10 show substantially the same pre-tension and thus nearly the same behaviour despite differences of ± 2.5 μm in the membrane thickness of the valves having a mean thickness of 25 μm (depth of sealing ring etching approximatively 4 μ ; oxide layer approximatively 1 μm thick).

The position detector according to the invention has the follo¬ wing properties : no mechanical calibration is necessary since the detector only has to distinguish between two values of the signal which correspond respectively to the open and closed positions (or incom¬ plete opening) of the valve, insensitive to interference with exterior signals (for example a control signal for the piezoelectric disc), simple, inexpensive components and fabrication.

In relationship to the embodiments described above, it may be added that the position detector of the capacitive type (Figures 3 to 5) functions in a satisfactory manner even if there is not a good electrical contact between the valve and the electrode 54, whereas the electric circuits of the detector of the resistive type (Figures 6 to 8, and 9a, 9b) is particulary simple.