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Research

Starting from a consolidated knowledge on the fabrication technologies for hybrid polymer/solid state based devices for tactile sensing, the vision is to extend the investigation to the realization of a technological platform for mass producible flexible and conformable smart systems.

The realization of innovative microsystems is carried out using MEMS/CMOS fabrication processes on silicon and glass substrates, as well as dedicated technologies for polymer-based devices.

The main research activity performed by the group in the last years was the development of a technology for the fabrication of RF-MEM switches, which started in 2003 within the ESA/ESTEC contract Nr. 14628/NL/CK-“MEM Switch”. This type of technology, and the following improvements are now the basis of all our activities in the field of the RF MEMS. The outcome of the original research project was a 8 mask fabrication process, that provides polysilicon lines and resistors, metal lines, two levels of electroplated gold and a level of evaporated gold.

MEMS technology is promising to provide many advantages in the field of micromechanical resonators. MEMS RF filters and reference oscillators are an attractive solution to the increasing count of RF components expected to be needed by future multiband, multimode wireless devices. The development of MEMS-resonators, batch manufacturable and capable of miniaturizing and lowering the power consumption of the best timekeepers and frequency references allowing insertion into truly portable applications or in telecommunication satellites is the main final goal of this research activity.

The 0-level packaging approach (also called Wafer Level Packaging) can be divided into chip-capping and thin film capping. The first one is based on silicon or quartz wafers processed to obtain a cap structure which is then bonded to the MEMS wafer, the later one is based on the processes of the planar technology which protect only the mechanical structures. Both approaches are currently studied.

The main research activity performed in this context in the last years was the development of Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDs). They are superconducting cryogenic detectors in which radiation detection is achieved by measuring small changes caused by photon absorption in the surface impedance of a superconducting strip metal incorporated in a high Q resonant circuit. The extremely low loss characteristic of superconductors makes these detectors extremely sensitive and, as a consequence of the high Q value, intrinsically multiplexable in the frequency domain, so that they can be easily implemented into large format arrays. A great advantage in using KID is that the fabrication process is straightforward, consisting in the simplest configuration of one single step of metal deposition and etching, guaranteeing a high yield a very low cost per pixel.

We develop power micro-generators, i.e. energy harvesters, in MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical-Systems) technology devoted to convert the mechanical energy scattered in the environment in the form of vibrations (e.g. domestic and industrial appliances, busy streets, car engines, HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning – systems, etc.) into electrical energy. The micro converters exploit a suspended proof mass (i.e. resonator) to sense vibrations and a suitable electromechanical coupling mechanism to accumulate electric charges induced by the mass oscillation.