A thermally actuated non-cantilever-beam micro-electro-mechanical viscosity sensor is presented. The proposed device is based on thermally induced vibrations of a silicon-based membrane and its damping due to the surrounding fluid. This vibration viscometer device utilizes thermal actuation through an in-situ resistive heater and piezoresistive sensing, both of which utilize CMOS compatible materials leading to an inexpensive and reliable system. Due to the nature of the actuation, thermal analysis was performed utilizing PN diodes embedded in the silicon membrane to monitor its temperature. This analysis determined the minimum heater voltage pulse amplitude and time in order to prevent heat loss to the oil under test that would lead to local viscosity changes. In order to study the natural vibration behavior of the complex multilayer membrane that is needed for the proposed sensor, a designed experiment was carried out. In this experiment, the effects of the material composition of the membrane and the size of the actuation heater were studied in detail with respect to their effects on the natural frequency of vibration. To confirm the validity of these measurements, Finite Element Analysis and white-light interferometry were utilized. Further characterization of the natural frequency of vibration of the membranes was carried out at elevated temperatures to explore the effects of temperature. Complex interactions take place among the different layers that compose the membrane structures. Finally, viscosity measurements were performed and compared to standard calibrated oils as well as to motor oils measured on a commercial cone-and-plate viscometer. The experimentally obtained data is compared to theoretical predictions and an empirically-derived model to predict viscosity from vibration measurements is proposed. Frequency correlation to viscosity was shown to be the best indicator for the range of viscosities tested with lower error (+/- 5%), than that of quality factor (+/- 20%). Further viscosity measurements were taken at elevated temperatures and over long periods of time to explore the device reliability and drift. Finally, further size reduction of the device was explored.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Microelectromechanical systems--Design and construction; Viscosity--Measurement
Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)
Department, Program, or Center
Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)
Puchades, Ivan, "A Thermally actuated microelectromechanical (MEMS) device for measuring viscosity" (2011). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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