Flexible polyimide-based force sensor
We have realized a flexible force sensor, composed of four redundant capacitors, the operation of which is based on the measurement of a load-induced capacitance change. We use polyimide both as flexible substrate and as elastic dielectric between two levels of finger-shaped aluminum electrodes. In particular we have developed a technology for realization of two-level polyimide microstructures with gentle slopes to facilitate subsequent metallization processes. Thereby, we could improve step coverage and electrical contacting between the two metallization levels, as well as the mechanical stability of the sensor. The smooth polyimide slopes were obtained by combining lithographic resist-reflow techniques with dry etching procedures. We have analytically modeled the sensor's capacitance and its force sensitivity. We have electrically characterized the capacitors using an impedance analyzer and obtained capacitances in the range of 130 pF and a typical force sensitivity of 0.5–1 fF/N, in excellent agreement with our model.