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Victor Farm-Guoo Tseng, Lei Wu, and Huikai Xie

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

ABSTRACT of this work is to demonstrate inductive position sensing as a

This paper serves to demonstrate inductive eddy current suitable position sensing mechanism for LVD micromirrors.
based sensing as a promising piston position and tilt angle
sensing mechanism for large vertical displacement OPERATION PRINCIPLE AND DESIGN
micromirrors that exhibit piston scan ranges above 100 m. The envisioned schematic of the inductive position
The sensor consists of two microfabricated coils packaged sensor assembled with the targeted LVD micromirror is
under the mirror plate, and supports both amplitude and shown in Fig. 1. The inductive position sensor is composed
frequency detection modes. Amplitude detection is achieved of two identical sensing coils with or without capacitors
by sensing the coupling change between the coils when the microfabricated on a glass substrate. The LVD micromirror
mirror plate moves, and a piston sensing range of 1 mm with device is then bonded on top of the sensing coils. The coils
306 nm resolution (or 130 m with 20 nm resolution) could emit high frequency magnetic flux which induces eddy
be obtained. Frequency detection is achieved by sensing the currents within the Al-coated mirror plate of the LVD
inductance change of both coils, and can simultaneously micromirror. When the mirror plate exhibits a vertical
displacement z, the coils detect the change in eddy currents
monitor piston position and tilt angle over a 500 m range.
based on either amplitude detection or frequency detection.

Inductive position sensing, eddy currents, sensing coil,
mutual coupling, piston scanning micromirror.

Using large vertical displacement (LVD) MEMS
micromirrors as the movable mirror in Fourier transform
spectrometers (FTS) offers great potential for miniaturization
so that on-site, real-time material analysis can be enabled. In Figure 1: Illustration of the electrothermal LVD micromirror
MEMS FTS systems, it is desired for the mirror plate to have assembled with the inductive position sensor.
a large linear piston scan range (above 100 m) to achieve
high spectral resolution, but at the same time have very small Amplitude Detection Mode
tilting to minimize misalignment issues [1]. Ultimately, For this detection mode, one of the coils serves as the
closed-loop control of the mirror plate position is necessary, transmitter and the other as the receiver, and they are paired
which requires a suitable position sensor to be integrated with with identical capacitors to form resonant inductive coupled
the micromirror to monitor the mirror plate. Specifically, in LC cells with the same resonant frequencies, as shown in Fig.
this work, an inductive position sensor is developed and 2. The LC cells are combined through a regenerative circuit
applied to a previously demonstrated electrothermal LVD to oscillate at f0 (9.4 MHz is chosen in this work for
micromirror [2], which can provide a 500 m piston scan demonstration purpose). The regenerative circuit consists of
with only 5.3 V (300 mW) while having a small tilt angle. an input buffer stage, a phase shift/tunable gain stage, and a
To monitor such LVD micromirrors, the position sensor resonant amplifier stage (with the receiver LC cell as its load)
must have a large sensing range, suitable resolution, and be to supply the input current Iin. The percentage of the
cost effective. Parallel plate or comb finger based capacitive magnetic flux emitted from the transmitter coil that is
sensing [3,4] provides satisfying resolution, but the reflected by the Al mirror plate to the receiver coil is a
capacitance change would be too small compared to parasitic function of f0, the Al layer thickness, and the mirror plate
capacitances due to the large mirror gap, thus posing a great position. When the mirror plate moves toward the coils, the
challenge for the interface circuitry. Piezoresistive sensing coupling coefficient k between the coils changes, first
[5] becomes nonlinear for large displacements, and is also increasing (referred to as the front slope region), then rapidly
temperature sensitive, making it incompatible with the decreasing (referred to as the back slope region). This causes
targeted electrothermal micromirror. Optical sensing [6] an increase and decrease of the amplitude of the output signal
provides suitable performance, but requires a complicated Vsensor, as shown in the measurement results of Fig. 6(a). The
assembly. Inductive eddy current based position sensing has sensitivity of Vsensor to z can be derived as
been used for macroscale mirrors in the past [7], but has not dVsensor dk 2
yet been demonstrated in the microscale. Thus, the endeavor = Q L(2 f 0 ) Iin (1)
dz dz

978-1-4799-8955-3/15/$31.00 2015 IEEE 176 Transducers 2015, Anchorage, Alaska, USA, June 21-25, 2015
with Q as the quality factor of the LC cells, and L as the coil will increase faster due to the closer mirror plate distance,
inductance. This detection mode is used when the mirror causing f1-f2 to change. Piston motion can then be monitored
plate distance is within 0.25-1.5 times of the coil side length, by sensing f1 and f2, while any change in f1-f2 can be used to
which also assures that the resonant peaks merge into one indicate the presence of the tilt angle of the mirror plate.
(with the condition kQ<1).
The fabrication process of the sensing coils and
capacitors starts with the sputter deposition and patterning of
a 1 m thick Ti/Cu/Ti layer for the capacitor bottom
electrode and interconnections. The thin Ti layers
completely cover the Cu layer to enhance adhesion and avoid
oxidation/diffusion. 0.3 m thick SiO2 is then deposited by
PECVD and patterned as the capacitor dielectric layer.
Another Cu/Ti layer is then deposited as the seed layer for
electroplating the 35 m thick Cu windings and capacitor top
electrode through a photoresist mold. After seed layer
removal, a final PECVD SiN passivation layer is used to
protect all Cu. The completed device is shown in Fig. 4. The
coils have a side length of 2 mm, and winding width/spacing
Figure 2: Lumped element circuit schematic of the amplitude
detection mode of the inductive position sensor.
of 38 m/12 m. The inductance of the coils was around 330
nH, and the Q of the coils at 9.4 MHz was around 10.5. The
Frequency Detection Mode on-chip capacitors had a capacitance of around 800 pF.
For this detection mode, both of the coils serve as Some of the coils were paired with the on-chip capacitors,
oscillator coils connected within two separate Colpitts while some utilized discrete capacitors.
oscillator circuits, as shown in Fig. 3. The resonant
frequency f1 of Oscillator 1 is intentionally tuned to be (a)
slightly higher than the resonant frequency f2 of Oscillator 2,
but not close enough to result in mutual injection frequency
locking. Hence, the output signal from the mixer and filter
possesses the difference frequency of f1-f2. For the current
design, f1=11.8 MHz, f2=12.5 MHz, and f1-f2=680 kHz.
When the mirror plate distance decreases below 0.25 times of
the coil side length, both L1 and L2 start to decrease due to the
induced eddy currents within the mirror plate being strong
enough to oppose the flux through the coils (via
electromagnetic image theory). When the mirror plate only (b)
exhibits pure piston motion, both f1 and f2 increase at the
same rate, thus f1-f2 remains constant. However, if the mirror
plate has a slight tilt angle while approaching, either f1 or f2

Figure 4: Microfabricated sensing coils and capacitors. (a) The

twin LC cells. (b) Close-up view of the coil Cu windings.


The SEM picture of the targeted electrothermal LVD
micromirror is shown in Fig. 5. The mirror plate is initially
elevated 550 m above the substrate by numerous Z-shaped
LVD electrothermal actuators, each composed of three sets
of Al on SiO2 bimorphs (with embedded Pt heater resistors)
and two silicon rigid frames [2]. When the resistors heat up,
Figure 3: Schematic of the frequency detection mode.
the actuators flatten downwards, cancelling the shift and tilt
of the mirror plate during its piston motion. The mirror plate

is 3 mm3 mm in area coated with a 1 m thick Al. The The back slope region has a 130 m sensing range, 185
thermal cutoff frequency for this device is at around 10 Hz, V/m sensitivity, and 20 nm resolution. The resolution was
and the resonant frequencies of the piston and tilt modes are measured by using a spectrum analyzer to determine the
respectively 390 Hz and 470 Hz. Due to the slow thermal noise floor. The sensitivities in both regions were roughly
response of this device, it was operated at below 1 Hz for the 1.5 times lower than theoretical predictions due to the Al
inductive position sensor to monitor. mirror plate being thinner than its skin depth at 9.4 MHz. A
readout circuit was also constructed to convert the amplitude
Mirror plate of Vsensor into a voltage Vreadout directly related to d, and the
results are plotted in Fig. 6(b) for the back slope region,
showing a linearity of 4% FS within d=750 to 908 m. The
time response of Vsensor and Vreadout with the LVD micromirror
driven by a 0-2.2 V square wave or a 0-1.8 V ramp wave is
shown in Fig. 7. The 100 ms response time of the LVD
micromirror can be seen in Vsensor and Vreadout of the square
Actuator wave case (Fig. 7(b)). For the ramp wave case, the
micromirror undergoes nonlinear displacement near 0 V, and
Vreadout closely follows the theoretical predictions calculated
Figure 5: Schematic of the frequency detection mode of the through static micromirror piston response characterization.
inductive position sensor.


Although the ideal assembly of the sensor coils with the
micromirror should be as Fig. 1, for demonstration purpose,
the sensor coils were fixed on top of the mirror plate with a
micropositioner, and the initial distance d between the mirror
plate and the coils was measured with a microscope.
For the amplitude detection mode, the measured Vsensor
versus distance d is shown in Fig. 6(a) for different designs.
The sensitivity of the sensor constructed with two
microfabricated LC cells is slightly lower due to the lower Q
of the on-chip capacitors. For the sensor constructed with
two microfabricated coils, the front slope region has a 1 mm
sensing range, 12 V/m sensitivity, and 306 nm resolution.


Front slope (c)

Back slope



Figure 6: Static measurements for the amplitude detection mode. (a) Figure 7: Time response measurements. (a) Vsensor and (b) Vreadout
Vsensor versus d, (b) Vreadout versus d in the back slope region. with square wave, (c) Vsensor and (d) Vreadout with ramp wave.

For the frequency detection mode, the mirror plate was CONCLUSIONS
adjusted by the micropositioner to be situated evenly above The two basic detection modes of the inductive eddy
the two coils without causing any shift in the difference current based position sensor were successfully
frequency f1-f2 during its piston motion, and a spectrum demonstrated to monitor either the piston position of the
analyzer was used to document the oscillators and mixers mirror plate of a LVD micromirror, or the piston position and
output frequencies. The measured f1 and f2 frequencies versus tilt angle together. The amplitude detection mode detects the
distance d is plotted in Fig. 8(a) with the mirror plate at 0 tilt level of resonant inductive coupling between two coils to
angle, achieving a maximum piston sensitivity of 4.15 sense piston motion, and generally has a large sensing range
kHz/m between d=300 m and d=800 m with a sensing region (up to half the coil diameter), and a high sensitivity
range of 500 m. Then, different voltages were applied to the region (with ten times higher sensitivity but ten times smaller
LVD actuators to achieve different tilt angles of the mirror sensing range) with nm resolution. The frequency detection
plate during its piston motion. The measured f1-f2 versus d at mode detects oscillation frequency shift due to coil
different tilt angles is plotted in Fig. 8(b), while the absolute inductance change at smaller distances, and although it has a
change in f1-f2 versus tilt angle at different d is plotted in Fig. smaller sensing range and sensitivity, it is less prone to noise
8(c). The tilt angle sensitivity increases as the mirror plate (limited by the frequency stability of the oscillator) and can
distance d decreases, with a tilt angle sensitivity of 60.5 achieve both piston and tilt sensing together. Future effort
kHz/ achieved at d=400 m. If combined with the piston will be on increasing the operation frequency, which can
information acquired from the shift of f1 and f2, the frequency increase the sensitivity, reduce the skin depth, and scale
detection mode could be used in a closed-loop control system down the coil size. A low noise RF circuit design will also be
to minimize the tilt angle of the mirror plate during its piston employed to achieve better resolution.
This work was supported by the National Science
Foundation under the award #1002209. Device fabrication
(a) and characterization was done in the NRF and IMG at the
University of Florida.

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Figure 8: Frequency detection mode measurement results. (a) f1 and
f2 versus d (mirror plate at 0), (b) f1-f2 versus d with different tilt CONTACT
angle applied to the mirror plate, (c) absolute change in |f1-f2| V. F.-G. Tseng:
versus mirror plate tilt angle at different d. Huikai Xie: