Physical principles and miniaturization of Spark Assisted Chemical Engraving (SACE)
Spark assisted chemical engraving (SACE) is an unconventional micromachining technology based on electrochemical discharge phenomena for glass and various ceramics. The limits of SACE with respect to small dimensions in the particular case of glass are explored. It is found, using a specially developed set-up based on an AFM, that even using extremely sharp tool-electrodes does not allow us to produce a smaller pattern than typically 25 micrometers. It is concluded that the gas film thickness, in which the electrochemical discharges take place, is the main limiting factor. Further experimental investigations on its formation are investigated. By adding surfactants to the electrolyte, in order to increase the wettability of the tool-electrode and therefore to reduce the gas film thickness, it is observed experimentally that the critical voltage reduces significantly. This observation may lead to a novel method of characterizing the gas film thickness in SACE.