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  1. Lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin films offer advantages in microelectromechanical systems (MEMSs) including large motion, lower drive voltage, and high energy densities. Depending on the application, different substrates are sometimes required. Self-heating occurs in the PZT MEMS due to the energy loss from domain wall motion, which can degrade the device performance and reliability. In this work, the self-heating of PZT thin films on Si and glass and a film released from a substrate were investigated to understand the effect of substrates on the device temperature rise. Nano-particle assisted Raman thermometry was employed to quantify the operational temperature rise of these PZT actuators. The results were validated using a finite element thermal model, where the volumetric heat generation was experimentally determined from the hysteresis loss. While the volumetric heat generation of the PZT films on different substrates was similar, the PZT films on the Si substrate showed a minimal temperature rise due to the effective heat dissipation through the high thermal conductivity substrate. The temperature rise on the released structure is 6.8× higher than that on the glass substrates due to the absence of vertical heat dissipation. The experimental and modeling results show that the thin layer of residual Si remaining after etching plays a crucial role in mitigating the effect of device self-heating. The outcomes of this study suggest that high thermal conductivity passive elastic layers can be used as an effective thermal management solution for PZT-based MEMS actuators.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 28, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Thin films based on PbZr1−xTixO3and K1−xNaxNbO3are increasingly being commercialized in piezoelectric MEMS due to the comparatively low drive voltages required relative to bulk actuators, as well as the facile approach to making sensor or actuator arrays. As these materials are incorporated into devices, it is critically important that they operate reliably over the lifetime of the system. This paper discusses some of the factors controlling the electrical and electromechanical reliability of lead zirconate titanate (PZT)-based piezoMEMS films. In particular, it will be shown the gradients in the Zr/Ti ratio through the depth of the films are useful in increasing the lifetime of the films under DC electrical stresses.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 21, 2024
  3. Anomalously abrupt nucleation and growth kinetics in polarization switching of wurtzite ferroelectrics are demonstrated. The anomaly inspires an extension of the traditional model to a regime that simultaneous non-linear nucleation and growth occur.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 31, 2024
  4. In undoped lead zirconate titanate films of 1–2  μm thick, domain walls move in clusters with a correlation length of approximately 0.5–2  μm. Band excitation piezoresponse force microscopy mapping of the piezoelectric nonlinearity revealed that niobium (Nb) doping increases the average concentration or mobility of domain walls without changing the cluster area of correlated domain wall motion. In contrast, manganese (Mn) doping reduces the contribution of mobile domain walls to the dielectric and piezoelectric responses without changing the cluster area for correlated motion. In both Nb and Mn doped films, the cluster area increases and the cluster density drops as the film thickness increases from 250 to 1250 nm. This is evident in spatial maps generated from the analysis of irreversible to reversible ratios of the Rayleigh coefficients. 
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  5. When utilizing double-beam laser interferometry to assess the piezoelectric coefficient of a film on a substrate, probing both top and bottom sample surfaces is expected to correct the erroneous bending contribution by canceling the additional path length from the sample height change. However, when the bending deformation becomes extensive and uncontrolled, as in the case of membranes or fully released piezoelectric films, the double-beam setup can no longer account for the artifacts, thus resulting in inflated film displacement data and implausibly large piezoelectric coefficient values. This work serves to identify these challenges by demonstrating d33,f measurements of fully released PZT films using a commercial double-beam laser interferometer. For a 1 μm thick randomly oriented PZT film on a 10 μm thick polyimide substrate, a large apparent d33,f of 9500 pm/V was measured. The source of error was presumably a distorted interference pattern due to the erroneous phase shift of the measurement laser beam caused by extensive deformation of the released sample structure. This effect has unfortunately been mistaken as enhanced piezoelectric responses by some reports in the literature. Finite element models demonstrate that bending, laser beam alignment, and the offset between the support structure and the electrode under test have a strong influence on the apparent film d33,f. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Understanding the failure mechanisms of piezoelectric thin films is critical for the commercialization of piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems. This paper describes the failure of 0.6 mu m lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin films on Si wafers with different in-plane stresses under large electric fields. The films failed by a combination of cracking and thermal breakdown events. It was found that the crack initiation and propagation behavior varied with the stress state of the films. The total stress required for crack initiation was estimated to be near 500 MPa. As expected, cracks propagated perpendicular to the maximum tensile stress direction. Thermal breakdown events and cracks were correlated, suggesting coupling between electrical and mechanical failure. It was also found that films that were released from the underlying substrates were less susceptible to failure by cracking. It was proposed that during electric field loading the released film stacks were able to bow and alleviate some of the stress. Released films may also experience enhanced domain wall motion that increases their fracture toughness. The results indicate that both applied stress and clamping conditions play important roles in the electromechancial failure of piezoelectric thin films. 
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