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Three Common Types of Pressure-Sensor Packages

At the heart of every MEMS pressure sensor is a MEMS silicon die. Merit Sensor owns and operates a wafer fab, where it produces all of its own MEMS die. Packaging a MEMS die requires specialized equipment and skills to handle the small and sensitive die and to perform delicate wire bonding. Therefore, many customers purchase pressure-sensor packages, in which the die have already been mounted and wire bonded. This article will discuss Merit Sensor’s three types of packages: uncompensated, passively compensated, and fully compensated.

Uncompensated

The most basic pressure-sensor package is uncompensated. In an uncompensated package the MEMS die has been mounted to a ceramic substrate with a special die-bond material, wire bonded to electrical traces on the ceramic, and covered with a protective cap or gel. Since each silicon die is inherently unique, the output for each one will be unique. Fortunately, silicon die have outputs that are very repeatable. This means the output can be compensated.

PMD Series Pressure Sensor Internal Components

PMD Series Pressure Sensor – Uncompensated

To get an accurate output, the customer will need to perform some degree of compensation. Certain applications lend themselves to compensation performed by the customer. Factors that will often determine whether the compensation is performed by Merit Sensor or the customer include the following:

  • Cost
  • Accuracy
  • Size
  • Output signal

Passively Compensated

A more ready-to-use version of a pressure-sensor package, especially for use at room temperature, is one with passive compensation. In this case the pressure-sensor package is basically the same as an uncompensated package; however, the thick-film resistors on the ceramic substrate have been laser trimmed, providing adequate compensation of the die’s output in operating temperatures between 10 °C and 40 °C.

Laser-Trimmed Thick-Film Resistor on AP Series Pressure Sensor

AP Series Pressure Sensor – Passively Compensated

For applications, such as invasive blood-pressure monitoring in a hospital room, compensation in this temperature range is sufficient. Other benefits of passive compensation are the pure analog signal with practically infinite resolution and frequency response times in microseconds.

Fully Compensated

In a fully compensated pressure-sensor package, signal conditioning (an on-board ASIC) is used to compensate the die’s output across a wide temperature span. A MEMS silicon die does not know the difference between pressure and temperature, so this level of compensation is especially critical in applications where the temperature of the sensing environment fluctuates drastically or reaches extremes highs or lows. Compensation through signal conditioning can provide a linear output and make that output as accurate as ±1 percent of the full-scale output (±1 %FS total error band) in operating temperatures between -40 °C and 150 °C.

Wheatstone Bridge with ASIC

Wheatstone Bridge on a MEMS Die with an On-Board ASIC

If we use fuel pumps in airplanes and fuel rails in vehicles for examples, it is typical for pressure sensors to be exposed to extreme temperatures; nevertheless, it is essential that these pressure sensors offer an accurate output. A fully compensated pressure sensor would be the appropriate solution.

TVC Series Pressure Sensor Internal Components

TVC Series Pressure Sensor – Fully Compensated

It is important to emphasize that each pressure sensor will require individual compensation, as each one will have a unique output inherent to its MEMS die. Many customers simply do not have the time or equipment to do this logistically or economically to each unit passing through their assembly line.

Merit Sensor has the experience and equipment to handle this necessary step for the customer. Furthermore, it often, although not always, makes sense for compensation to be done before the part leaves our facility. Nevertheless, we have left options for those customers who choose to do their own compensation. As always, our sales managers and technical team will be happy to answer any related questions.

Four Characteristics of Our Newest MEMS Sensing Element

Merit Sensor has owned and operated a wafer fab from its beginnings. Fabricating our own MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) sensing elements, or die, is something that sets us apart from other pressure sensor manufacturers, many of whom source their MEMS die from foundries or suppliers. Producing our own wafers, which are diced into individual MEMS sensing elements, allows us to control our own technologies, development, and supply chain. To learn more about the advantages, read this AZoSensors interview with our director of engineering.

Since we continue to see interest worldwide in these MEMS sensing elements, we continue to develop MEMS die with superior performance at competitive cost. Our newest MEMS product on the market is the S Series, offering optimal size, sensitivity, and stability. Perhaps best of all is its excellent performance in regards to thermal hysteresis. Each of these characteristics will be discussed below.

Size

One remarkable feature of the S Series is its solid performance at a very small size: 1.5 mm x 1.5 mm x 0.9 mm. This size also makes it is possible to optimize the amount of die produced on each 150 mm (6 inch) wafer. The end result is a lower-cost die for the customer without any loss of superior performance.

S Series MEMS Die Dimensions

S Series MEMS Die Dimensions

Sensitivity

Silicon, which is the raw material of MEMS wafers, has piezoresistive properties, which means when pressure is applied, it is strained and its resistance changes accordingly. An output is based on the changes in resistance. Merit Sensor uses Wheatstone bridge technology to optimize the linearity of the output. It is challenging, however, to obtain an adequate output when the pressure is low. Nevertheless, through Merit Sensor’s proprietary MeritUltra technology the S Series provides a typical output at 5 psi / 34 kPa / 345 mbar of 100 millivolts (mV).

Stability

A stable part will remain accurate, i.e. it will not drift, over time and sustained temperature. The S Series data sheet specifies a long-term stability of ± 0.2 % of the full-scale output (% FSO). The chart below shows how stable and accurate the part has proven to be, demonstrating a typical offset drift of <0.05 % FSO at 300 hours.

S Series MEMS Die Long-Term Stability

Long-Term Stability of the S Series

Thermal Hysteresis

The characteristic we are really talking about here, once again, is accuracy. In addition to remaining accurate over time and sustained temperature, the S Series displays exceptional accuracy when exposed to thermal cycling. A MEMS sensing element is inherently sensitive to temperature. Its resistance and output will change when temperature changes. Fortunately, changes that are consistent are simple to compensate. The S Series die exhibits very consistent, accurate output when it is exposed to extreme temperatures and returned to room temperature. In thermal cycling tests it demonstrated a typical thermal hysteresis offset of <0.05 % FSO.

S Series MEMS Die Accuracy with Thermal Hysteresis

Accuracy of S Series with Thermal Hysteresis

If you have any questions about using the S Series in your application, contact one of our sales managers. You might also find the application note “Handling of Mounting of Pressure Die” useful.