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A microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) optical microphone that measures the interference of light resulting from its passage through a diffraction grating and reflection from a vibrating diaphragm is described ( JASA, v. 122, no. 4, 2007). In the present embodiment, both the diffractive optical element and the sensing diaphragm are micromachined on silicon. Additional system components include a semiconductor laser, photodiodes, and required readout electronics. Advantages of this optical detection technique have been demonstrated with both omnidirectional microphones and biologically inspired directional microphones. In efforts to commercialize this technology for hearing aids and other applications, a goal has been set to achieve a microphone contained in a small surface-mount package (occupying 2 × 2 mm × 1 mm volume), with ultralow noise (20 dBA) and a broad frequency response (20 Hz-20 kHz). Such a microphone would be consistent in size with the smallest MEMS microphones available today but would have noise performance characteristics of professional-audio microphones significantly larger in size and more expensive to produce. This paper will present several unique challenges in our effort to develop the first surface-mount packaged optical MEMS microphone. The package must accommodate both optical and acoustical design considerations. Dynamic models used for simulating frequency response and noise spectra of fully packaged microphones are presented and compared with measurements performed on prototypes.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2011