Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Micro and Nanoscale Systems

First Advisor

Chester Wilson


Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) resonators have been a subject of research for more than four decades. The reason is the huge potential they possess for frequency applications. The use of a MEMS resonator as the timing element has an experimental history and huge progress has been made in this direction. Vacuum encapsulated MEMS resonators are required for high precision frequency control. Hence, a device with a high quality factor and durability is needed. In this effort, a new process for producing a cavity in the substrate of Silicon on insulator (SOI) MEMS devices and augmenting it with a getter using porous silicon is developed. The process involves a mask-less, self-aligned cost effective electrochemical etching process.

A 10 μm cavity is introduced in the substrate of SOI dies. This helps in increasing the packaging volume of the SOI resonators along with mitigating the viscous damping effects. The stiction problem in MEMS devices is effectively eliminated and millimeter long slender MEMS structures do not get stuck to the substrate. It also helps in reducing the parasitic capacitance between the device side and the substrate.

The porous silicon getter is introduced as a getter material for vacuum encapsulated MEMS devices. This getter needs no external mask and is self-aligned. It requires no external heat or additional materials to operate. The highly reactive porous silicon can readily react with the oxygen gas and form an oxide layer that can trap other gas molecules. This helps in maintaining low pressures in the cavity of the bonded MEMS resonators.

A tuning fork resonator with a resonant frequency of 245 kHz was used to realize the benefits of the cavity and the getter. It was observed that the unpackaged device with the cavity in the substrate showed two times better quality factor at different pressures, than the device with no cavity. In order to understand the benefits of porous silicon as a getter, the MEMS devices (one with only a cavity in the substrate and the other with a cavity and getter) were anodic bonded and tested. The devices with a getter reported two times better quality factor than the non-getter devices.