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A maximum processing temperature of 250/spl deg/C is used to fabricate capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUTs) on silicon and quartz substrates for immersion applications. Fabrication on silicon provides a means for electronics integration via post-complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processing without sacrificing device performance. Fabrication on quartz reduces parasitic capacitance and allows the use of optical displacement detection methods for CMUTs. The simple, low-temperature process uses metals both as the sacrificial layer for improved dimensional control, and as the bottom electrode for good electrical conductivity and optical reflectivity. This, combined with local sealing of the vacuum cavity by plasma-enhanced chemical-vapor deposition of silicon nitride, provides excellent control of lateral and vertical dimensions of the CMUTs for optimal device performance. In this paper, the fabrication process is described in detail, including process recipes and material characterization results. The CMUTs fabricated for intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging in the 10-20 MHz range and interdigital CMUTs for microfluidic applications in the 5-20 MHz range are presented as device examples. Intra-array and wafer-to-wafer process uniformity is evaluated via electrical impedance measurements on 64-element ring annular IVUS imaging arrays fabricated on silicon and quartz wafers. The resonance frequency in air and collapse voltage variations are measured to be within 1% and 5%, respectively, for both cases. Acoustic pressure and pulse echo measurements also have been performed on 128 /spl mu/m/spl times/32 /spl mu/m IVUS array elements in water, which reveal a performance suitable for forward-looking IVUS imaging at about 16 MHz.