Integrated packaging solutions and hotplates for a miniature atomic clock and other microsystems

This thesis aimed at developing innovative packaging solutions for a miniature atomic clock and other microsystems in the cm-scale, i.e. somewhat larger than what is practical for full "chip-scale" device-package integration using clean-room technologies for fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Besides well-defined and robust mechanical attachment, such packaging solutions must provide reliable electrical interconnection with the other system components, and, if needed, additional functions such as local temperature control, insulation from electrical magnetic or temperature perturbations, chemical separation (hermeticity). In order to accomplish this objective, different packaging technologies and modules were developed, fabricated and characterized in the frame of this thesis, with particular emphasis on the packaging of a miniature double-resonance (DR) rubidium atomic clock, which is an ideal demonstration platform given the associated large variety of requirements. First, the possibility of encapsulating the reactive Rb metal in ceramic / glass substrates using soldering was explored, with the aim to achieve simple and reliable fabrication of miniature atomic clock elements such as the reference cell and the Rb lamp. After a thorough literature review investigation of the metallurgical interactions between rubidium and materials used in packaging such as solder (Sn, Pb, Bi..) and thick-film metallizations metals (Ag, Pd, Au, 2 Pt...), an innovative design for a Rb reference cell (dimensions 10 × 12 mm ) is presented. The cell is based on a multifunctional low-temperature cofired ceramic (LTCC) spacer, closed by two glass windows allowing light transmission and acting as lids. Bonding is achieved by low-temperature soldering, avoiding exposing Rb to high temperatures. The use of LTCC as the main substrate material for Rb vapor cells in principle allows further integration of necessary functions for the Rb lamp and reference cell, such as temperature regulation, excitation / microwave resonator electrodes, impedance-matching passive components (lamp), and coil for static magnetic field generation (reference). In this work, to test the hermeticity of the bonding, a pressure sensor was integrated into the cell by replacing one of the glass windows by a membrane comprising an integrated piezoresistive Wheatstone bridge. In this frame, a new lamination technique for LTCC is proposed. The technique consists in applying a hot-melt adhesive on top of the LTCC green tape, and allows good bonding of the tapes even at low lamination pressure. This technique is particularly attractive for the lamination of LTCC microfluidic devices or membrane pressure sensors, because the low pressure applied during lamination does not affect the shape of the channels in a microfluidic device, or the membrane of the sensor. The resulting cells are shown to be hermetic, and a Rb response could be measured by the project partners. However, heating resulted in loss of this response, indicating Rb depletion by undesired reactions between Rb and the sealing metals or contaminants. This result is somewhat in line with studies made in parallel with the present work on low-temperature indium thermocompression bonding. Therefore, although the results are promising, further optimisation of metallizations, solders and package design is required. An important generic function that may be integrated into LTCC is temperature control. In this frame, a multifunctional LTCC hotplate was designed, fabricated and studied. This device allows controlling the temperature of any object in the cm-scale, such as the abovementioned Rb vapor cells (reference or lamp) and other temperature-sensitive elements used in miniature atomic clocks such as lasers and impedance-matching passive components. Full thermal analysis, mathematical calculations, finite-element simulations and laboratory experiments were performed. The excellent structurability and modest thermal conductivity of LTCC make it much better suited than standard alumina for integrated hotplates, resulting in conduction losses in the LTCC structure being small compared to surface losses by conduction and convection. It is therefore concluded that insulation and/or vacuum packaging techniques are necessary to achieve optimized low-power operation. Although we have seen that LTCC is an excellent integrated packaging platform, there are some limitations for carrying relatively massive components such as the DR atomic clock resonator cavity structure, which in general is a solid metal part. Therefore, an alternative hotplate technology platform, was developed, based on the combination of standard fiberglass-reinforced organic-matrix printed-circuit board (PCB), combined with thick-film alumina heaters. The PCB acts as high-strength, low-cost and readily available mechanical carrier, electrical interconnect and thermal insulator, and the thick-film heaters provide local temperature regulation, with the high thermal conductivity of alumina ensuring good local temperature uniformity. Therefore, such a hybrid PCB-Al2O3 platform constitutes an attractive alternative to LTCC hotplates for benign operating conditions. In conclusion, this work introduced several innovative packaging solutions and techniques, which were successfully applied to various dedicated modules carrying the elements of miniature atomic clocks. Beyond this application, these developments allow us to envision efficient packaging of a wide variety of new miniature devices. Also, new areas for further investigations are suggested, such as long-term metallurgical interactions of alkali metals with solders, hermeticity, optimization of temperature distribution and thermal insulation techniques, as well as reliability at high-temperatures and under severe thermal cycling.
This thesis aimed at developing innovative packaging solutions for a miniature atomic clock and other microsystems in the cm-scale, i.e. somewhat larger than what is practical for full "chip-scale" device-package integration using clean-room technologies for fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Besides well-defined and robust mechanical attachment, such packaging solutions must provide reliable electrical interconnection with the other system components, and, if needed, additional functions such as local temperature control, insulation from electrical magnetic or temperature perturbations, chemical separation (hermeticity). In order to accomplish this objective, different packaging technologies and modules were developed, fabricated and characterized in the frame of this thesis, with particular emphasis on the packaging of a miniature double-resonance (DR) rubidium atomic clock, which is an ideal demonstration platform given the associated large variety of requirements. First, the possibility of encapsulating the reactive Rb metal in ceramic / glass substrates using soldering was explored, with the aim to achieve simple and reliable fabrication of miniature atomic clock elements such as the reference cell and the Rb lamp. After a thorough literature review investigation of the metallurgical interactions between rubidium and materials used in packaging such as solder (Sn, Pb, Bi..) and thick-film metallizations metals (Ag, Pd, Au, 2 Pt...), an innovative design for a Rb reference cell (dimensions 10 × 12 mm ) is presented. The cell is based on a multifunctional low-temperature cofired ceramic (LTCC) spacer, closed by two glass windows allowing light transmission and acting as lids. Bonding is achieved by low-temperature soldering, avoiding exposing Rb to high temperatures. The use of LTCC as the main substrate material for Rb vapor cells in principle allows further integration of necessary functions for the Rb lamp and reference cell, such as temperature regulation, excitation / microwave resonator electrodes, impedance-matching passive components (lamp), and coil for static magnetic field generation (reference). In this work, to test the hermeticity of the bonding, a pressure sensor was integrated into the cell by replacing one of the glass windows by a membrane comprising an integrated piezoresistive Wheatstone bridge. In this frame, a new lamination technique for LTCC is proposed. The technique consists in applying a hot-melt adhesive on top of the LTCC green tape, and allows good bonding of the tapes even at low lamination pressure. This technique is particularly attractive for the lamination of LTCC microfluidic devices or membrane pressure sensors, because the low pressure applied during lamination does not affect the shape of the channels in a microfluidic device, or the membrane of the sensor. The resulting cells are shown to be hermetic, and a Rb response could be measured by the project partners. However, heating resulted in loss of this response, indicating Rb depletion by undesired reactions between Rb and the sealing metals or contaminants. This result is somewhat in line with studies made in parallel with the present work on low-temperature indium thermocompression bonding. Therefore, although the results are promising, further optimisation of metallizations, solders and package design is required. An important generic function that may be integrated into LTCC is temperature control. In this frame, a multifunctional LTCC hotplate was designed, fabricated and studied. This device allows controlling the temperature of any object in the cm-scale, such as the abovementioned Rb vapor cells (reference or lamp) and other temperature-sensitive elements used in miniature atomic clocks such as lasers and impedance-matching passive components. Full thermal analysis, mathematical calculations, finite-element simulations and laboratory experiments were performed. The excellent structurability and modest thermal conductivity of LTCC make it much better suited than standard alumina for integrated hotplates, resulting in conduction losses in the LTCC structure being small compared to surface losses by conduction and convection. It is therefore concluded that insulation and/or vacuum packaging techniques are necessary to achieve optimized low-power operation. Although we have seen that LTCC is an excellent integrated packaging platform, there are some limitations for carrying relatively massive components such as the DR atomic clock resonator cavity structure, which in general is a solid metal part. Therefore, an alternative hotplate technology platform, was developed, based on the combination of standard fiberglass-reinforced organic-matrix printed-circuit board (PCB), combined with thick-film alumina heaters. The PCB acts as high-strength, low-cost and readily available mechanical carrier, electrical interconnect and thermal insulator, and the thick-film heaters provide local temperature regulation, with the high thermal conductivity of alumina ensuring good local temperature uniformity. Therefore, such a hybrid PCB-Al2O3 platform constitutes an attractive alternative to LTCC hotplates for benign operating conditions. In conclusion, this work introduced several innovative packaging solutions and techniques, which were successfully applied to various dedicated modules carrying the elements of miniature atomic clocks. Beyond this application, these developments allow us to envision efficient packaging of a wide variety of new miniature devices. Also, new areas for further investigations are suggested, such as long-term metallurgical interactions of alkali metals with solders, hermeticity, optimization of temperature distribution and thermal insulation techniques, as well as reliability at high-temperatures and under severe thermal cycling.


Advisor(s):
Ryser, Peter
Maeder, Thomas
Year:
2013
Publisher:
Lausanne, EPFL
Keywords:
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis6020-8
Laboratories:


Note: The status of this file is: Anyone


 Record created 2013-12-02, last modified 2020-10-28

n/a:
Download fulltext
PDF

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
1
2
3
 
(Not yet reviewed)