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Flexible transducer arrays are desired to wrap around catheter tips for side-looking intravascular ultrasound imaging. We present a technique for constructing flexible capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) arrays by forming polymer-filled deep trenches in a silicon substrate. First, we etch deep trenches between the bottom electrodes of CMUT elements on a prime silicon wafer using deep reactive ion etching. Second, we fusion-bond a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafer to the prime silicon wafer. Once the silicon handle and buried oxide layers are removed from the back side of the SOI wafer, the remaining thin silicon device layer acts as a movable membrane and top electrode. Third, we fill the deep trenches with polydimethylsiloxane, and thin the wafer down from the back side. The 16 by 16 flexible 2-D arrays presented in this paper have a trench width that varies between 6 and 20 ; the trench depth is 150 ; the membrane thickness is 1.83 ; and the final substrate thickness is 150 . We demonstrate the flexibility of the substrate by wrapping it around a needle tip with a radius of 450 (less than catheter size of 3 French). Measurements in air validate the functionality of the arrays. The 250- by 250- transducer elements have a capacitance of 2.29 to 2.67 pF, and a resonant frequency of 5.0 to 4.3 MHz, for dc bias voltages ranging from 70 to 100 V.
Date of Publication: April 2008