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CMOS and SOI CMOS FET-based gas sensors

By James A. Covington


In recent years, there has been considerable interest in the use of gas/vapour monitors and\ud electronic nose instruments by the environmental, automotive and medical industries. These\ud applications require low cost and low power sensors with high yield and high reproducibility,\ud with an annual prospective market of 1 million pounds. Present device and sensor\ud technologies suffer a major limitation, their incompatibility with a standard silicon CMOS\ud process. These technologies have either operating/annealing temperatures unsuited for\ud MOSFET operation or an inappropriate sensing mechanism. The aim of this research is the\ud development of CMOS compatible gas/vapour sensors, with a low cost of fabrication, high\ud device repeatability and, in the future, transducer sensor amalgamation. Two novel\ud approaches have been applied, utilising bulk CMOS and SOI BiCMOS. The bulk CMOS\ud designs use a MOSFET sensing structure, with an active polymeric gate material, operating at\ud low temperatures (<100°C), based on an array device of four elements, with channel lengths\ud of 10 μm or 5 μm. The SOI designs exploit a MOSFET heater with a chemoresistive or\ud chemFET sensing structure, on a thin membrane formed by the epi-taxial layer. By applying\ud SOI technology, the first use in gas sensor applications, operating temperatures of up to 300\ud °C can be achieved at a power cost of only 35 mW (simulated). Full characterisation of the\ud bulk CMOS chemFET sensors has been performed using electrochemically deposited (e.g.\ud poly(pyrrole)/BSA)) and composite polymers (e.g. poly(9-vinylcarbazole)) to ethanol and\ud toluene vapour in air. In addition, environmental factors (humidity and temperature) on the\ud response and baseline were investigated. This was carried out using a newly developed flow\ud injection analysis test station, which conditions the test vapour to precise analyte (<15 PPM\ud of toluene) and water concentrations at a fixed temperature (RT to 105°C +- 0.1), with the\ud sensor characterised by either I-V or constant current instrumentation. N-channel chemFET\ud sensors operated at constant current (10 μA) with electrochemically deposited and composite\ud polymers showed sensitivities of up to 1.1 μV/PPM and 4.0 μV/PPM to toluene vapour and to\ud 1.1 μV/PPM and 0.4 μV/PPM for ethanol vapour, respectively, with detection limits of <20\ud PPM and <100 PPM to toluene and <20 PPM and 10+ PPM to ethanol vapour (limited by\ud baseline noise), respectively. These responses followed either a power law (composite\ud polymers) or a modified Langmuir isotherm model (electrochemically deposited polymers)\ud with analyte concentration. It is proposed that this reaction-rate limited response is due to an\ud alteration in polymers work function by either a partial charge transfer from the analyte or a\ud swelling effect (polymer expansion). Increasing humidity caused, in nearly all cases a\ud reduction in relative baseline, possible by dipole formation at the gate oxide surface. For the\ud response, increasing humidity had no effect on sensors with composite polymers and an\ud increase for sensors with electrochemically-deposited polymers. Higher temperatures caused\ud a reduction in baseline signal, by a thermal expansion of the polymer, and a reduction in\ud response explained by the analyte boiling point model describing a reduction in the bulk\ud solubility of the polymer. Electrical and thermal characterisation of the SOI heaters,\ud fabricated by the MATRA process, has been performed. I-V measurements show a reduction\ud in drain current for a MOSFET after back-etching, by a degradation of the carrier mobility.\ud Dynamic measurement showed a two stage thermal response (dual exponential), as the\ud membrane reaching equilibrium (100-200 ms) followed by the bulk (1-2 s). A temperature\ud coefficient of 8 mW/°C was measured, this was significantly higher than expected from\ud simulations, explained by the membrane being only partially formed. Diode and resistive\ud temperature sensors showed detection limits under 0.1°C and shown to measure a modulated\ud heater output of less than 1°C at frequencies higher than 10Hz. The principal research\ud objectives have been achieved, although further work on the SOI device is required. The\ud results and theories presented in this study should provide a useful contribution to this\ud research area

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