Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Committee Chair

McNamara, Shamus

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Keynton, Robert

Committee Member

Cohn, Robert W.

Committee Member

Alphenaar, Bruce

Committee Member

Sumanasekera, Gamini


Microelectromechanical systems; Electrets


Electrets used in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices are often formed by corona charging, where ionized gases are generated in an electric field to introduce a charge to the electret surface. The purpose of this study was to investigate a new technique for creating an electret from a plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) multilayer film of SiO2/Si3N4/SiO2 using a direct contact electrode of silicon. The electret formation takes advantage of deep traps in silicon nitride, which are known to develop from hydrogen interactions with silicon dangling bonds and, in some stoichiometries, nitrogen dangling bonds. The electret activation process has been optimized for maximum effective surface voltage (ESV). The deposition and activation process for the electret has the additional benefit of using commercially available equipment present in many microelectronic fabrication facilities. Standardized processes for depositing the PECVD film stack and activating the electret with a wafer level bonder have been developed.Using this new process, electret films have been produced with positive and negative effective surface voltages in excess of +/‐194.0 V. Extrapolated lifetimes, based on thermal decay studies, are calculated to be 57 years and 23 years for positive and negative electrets respectively if they are maintained in moderate to low humidity environments below 125°C. Activation energy levels in positive and negative electrets are 1.4 eV and 1.2 eV respectively. This new electret multilayer film stack and direct charging method produced thin film electrets with a half‐life 5 times greater than that reported in literature by other groups using PECVD multilayer electrets [1, 2]. A new application was investigated to see how an electret may benefit semiconductor‐liquid interactions. The PECVD electret was used to apply a gate bias to the back side of a double side polished silicon wafer to determine the effect of gate bias on the etch rates of an anisotropic silicon etch in 25% wt. tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH). Our results show that the positively charged electret produced a statistically significant increase in etch rate, when compared to neutral and negatively charged electrets, as the silicon‐TMAH interface approached the depletion region produced by the electret. The mean values of the silicon etch rate were evaluated for the last hour of etching with samples categorized by electret potentials as positive, negative or neutral. The positive potential electret had a mean etch rate of 12.0 um/hr for silicon as compared to 8.8 um/hr and 8.6 um/hr for negatively and neutrally charge electrets respectively. The one way Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA) of the silicon etch rates between the neutral (control) PECVD film and the positive electret had a P value of 0.009 and falls within the 1% significance level, showing that it is very likely that the positive electret film has an effect on the final etch rate of the silicon under null hypothesis testing.