On the effect of water-induced degradation of thin-film piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of microelectromechanical systems. 2021, 30 (1), 105-115. 10.1109/JMEMS.2020.3031201
Lifetime and reliability in realistic operating conditions are important parameters for the application of thin-film piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems (piezoMEMS) based on lead zirconate titanate (PZT). Humidity can induce time-dependent dielectric breakdown at a higher rate compared to dry conditions, and significantly alter the dynamic behavior of piezoMEMS-devices. Here we assess the lifetime and reliability of PZT-based micromirrors with and without humidity barriers operated at 23°C in an ambient of 0 and 95 % relative humidity. The correlation of the dynamic response, as well as the ferroelectric, dielectric, and leakage properties, with degradation time was investigated. In humid conditions, the median timeto-failure was increased from 2.7×10 4 [1.9×10 4 -4.0×10 4 ] s to 1.1×10 6 [0.9×10 6 -1.5×10 6 ] s at 20 VAC continuous unipolar actuation, by using a 40 nm thick Al 2 O 3 humidity barrier. However, the initial maximum angular deflection, polarization, and dielectric permittivity decreased by about 6, 11, and 12 %, respectively, for Al 2 O 3 capped devices. For both bare and encapsulated devices, the onset of electrothermal breakdown-events was the dominant cause of degradation. Severe distortions in the device's dynamic behavior, together with failure from loss of angular deflection, preceded time-dependent dielectric breakdown in 95% relative humidity. Moreover, due to the film-substrate stress transfer sensitivity of thin-film devices, water-induced degradation affects the reliability of thin-film piezoMEMS differently than bulk piezoMEMS.