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A micromachined electrometer, based on the concept of a variable capacitor, has been designed, modeled, fabricated, and tested. The device presented in this paper functions as a modulated variable capacitor, wherein a dc charge to be measured is up-modulated and converted to an ac voltage output, thus improving the signal-to-noise ratio. The device was fabricated in a commercial standard SOI micromachining process without the need for any additional processing steps. The electrometer was tested in both air and vacuum at room temperature. In air, it has a charge-to-voltage conversion gain of 2.06 nV/e, and a measured charge noise floor of 52.4 e/rtHz. To reduce the effects of input leakage current, an electrically isolated capacitor has been introduced between the variable capacitor and input to sensor electronics. Methods to improve the sensitivity and resolution are suggested while the long-term stability of these sensors is modeled and discussed.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2008