Capacitive strain gauges on flexible polymer substrates for wireless, intelligent systems
This paper presents a novel capacitive strain gauge with interdigital electrodes, which was processed on polyimide and LCP (liquid crystal polymer) foil substrates. The metallization is deposited and patterned using thin-film technology with structure sizes down to 15 μm. We determined linear strain sensitivities for our sensor configuration and identified the most influencing parameters on the output signal by means of an analytical approach. Finite-element method (FEM) simulations of the strain gauge indicated the complex interaction of mechanical strains within the sensitive structure and their effect on the capacitance. The influence of geometry and material parameters on the strain sensitivity was investigated and optimized. We implemented thin films on 50 μm thick standard polymer foils by means of a temporary bonding process of the foils on carrier wafers. The characterization of the strain sensors after fabrication revealed the gauge factor as well as the cross sensitivities on temperatures up to 100 °C and relative humidity up to 100%. The gauge factor of a sensor with an electrode width of 45 μm and a clearance of 15 μm was −1.38 at a capacitance of 48 pF. Furthermore, we achieved a substantial reduction of the cross sensitivity against humidity from 1435 to 55 ppm % −1 RH when LCP was used for the sensor substrate and the encapsulation instead of polyimide. The gauge factor of a sensor half-bridge consisting of two orthogonal capacitors was 2.3 and the cross sensitivity on temperature was reduced to 240 ppm K −1. Finally, a sensor system was presented that utilizes a special instrumentation Integrated Circuit (IC). For this system, performance data comprising cross sensitivities and power consumption are given.