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In this paper, the design and experimental results for a novel micromachined electric-field sensor are presented. The operation of the sensor is based on chopping an incident field with a shutter and measuring the induced charge on two sets of electrodes situated below the shutter. Employing of thermal actuators to move the shutter allows for substantial reduction in drive-signal amplitude as compared to electrostatic actuators which has consequently resulted in less interference from the drive signal. Moreover, the drive and sense signals are separated in the frequency domain owing to the inherent nonlinearity of thermal actuators, further improving the accuracy and resolution of the measurements. The relatively small displacements produced by thermal actuators are mechanically amplified using a novel lever mechanism. The sensor is capable of measuring fields as small as 42 V/m using actuation signals on the order of 60 mV.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2008