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Sens Actuators A Phys. 2010 Jul 1;162(1):130-136.

A Wafer-Scale Etching Technique for High Aspect Ratio Implantable MEMS Structures.

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  • 1Dept of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Utah 50 South Central Campus Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Microsystem technology is well suited to batch fabricate microelectrode arrays, such as the Utah electrode array (UEA), intended for recording and stimulating neural tissue. Fabrication of the UEA is primarily based on the use of dicing and wet etching to achieve high aspect ratio (15:1) penetrating electrodes. An important step in the array fabrication is the etching of electrodes to produce needle-shape electrodes with sharp tips. Traditional etching processes are performed on a single array, and the etching conditions are not optimized. As a result, the process leads to variable geometries of electrodes within an array. Furthermore, the process is not only time consuming but also labor-intensive. This report presents a wafer-scale etching method for the UEA. The method offers several advantages, such as substantial reduction in the processing time, higher throughput and lower cost. More importantly, the method increases the geometrical uniformity from electrode to electrode within an array (1.5 ± 0.5 % non-uniformity), and from array to array within a wafer (2 ± 0.3 % non-uniformity). Also, the etching rate of silicon columns, produced by dicing, are studied as a function of temperature, etching time and stirring rate in a nitric acid rich HF-HNO(3) solution. These parameters were found to be related to the etching rates over the ranges studied and more-importantly affect the uniformity of the etched silicon columns. An optimum etching condition was established to achieve uniform shape electrode arrays on wafer-scale.

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