Application of graphite-based sacrificial layers for fabrication of LTCC (low temperature co-fired ceramic) membranes and micro-channels
Fabrication of sensors and micro-fluidic structures from low temperature co- fired ceramic (LTCC) sheets is a growing interest in the micro-packaging community. Such devices usually have inner cavities, whose production is quite complicated. The most elegant method to build such structures so far achieved is by a fugitive phase that is introduced into the multilayer and removed during firing. This paper, therefore, is aimed to introduce the graphite-based sacrificial paste developed for this purpose, and it is constructed in two sections: (i) selection of paste and determination of LTCC open-porosity elimination temperature, and (ii) fabrication and characterization of pressure sensitive LTCC membranes. In the former section, it is shown that increased heating rates (and decreasing tape thickness) shift the open porosity elimination temperature of LTCC by 20 °C, which is small compared to the shift of graphite oxidation temperature (about 100 °C). In the latter section, three parameters affecting the balance between the graphite oxidation and LTCC sintering are studied: heating rate, graphite phase thickness and width of the membrane inlet/outlet channels. As expected, larger heating rates and narrow inlet/outlet channels are found to hinder the oxidation of graphite and evacuation of the resulting products, which results in swollen membranes. Large graphite thickness, through the increased channel height, results in lower swelling in spite of the larger amount of graphite to be oxidized. Membranes with low swelling are found to exhibit excellent pressure sensing characteristics, whereas those with high swelling display hysteretic behavior.