MEMS Microphone Technology for Smaller, Lower-Cost Electronic Devices

Technology #15148

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Researchers
Mark Sheplak
David P. Arnold
Managed By
Richard Croley
Assistant Director 352-392-8929
Patent Protection
US Patent 9,554,212

Streamlines Manufacturing, Allowing Faster and Easier Processing

This MEMS microphone has pared-down packaging making it possible to inexpensively manufacture even smaller electronic devices. The term microphone refers to a transducer or sensor that converts sound into electrical signals. The devices are used in a wide range of consumer products (including phones, computers, PDAs, and hearing aids). There are two main types on the market today: electret condenser microphones (ECMs) and newer condenser microphones. The latter, typically fabricated as micro-electromechanical systems, are often referred to as MEMS microphones or MEMS condenser microphones. MEMS microphones, which originated in the mid-1980s, initially experienced limited commercial success since the older ECMs performed adequately and were much cheaper to produce. Recently, though, interest in MEMS microphones has resurged. Not only do they provide better sound quality; their greater heat tolerance allows for the use of high-volume surface mount manufacturing techniques. University of Florida researchers have removed excess packaging and employed printed circuit board fabrication technology to create a streamlined MEMS microphone with integrated cavity and vent structures. Recent trends suggest a tremendous demand for this technology, which will cut costs and speed manufacturing.

Application

An inexpensive, PCB-fabricated MEMS microphone for small electronic devices that will save manufacturers time and money

Advantages

  • Streamlined manufacturing process is faster and easier, driving down per-unit costs
  • Device is integrated with the microphone packaging, allowing for the development of even smaller electronic
  • Useful in a wide variety of applications, offering multiple market opportunities

Technology

Mobile phone companies are the largest consumers of MEMS microphones –with some newer phones using at least two for Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), according to a May 2011 report by I-Micronews, an online semiconductor technologies magazine. Other devices, such as laptops and camcorders, can include six or more MEMS microphones. University of Florida researchers have developed a streamlined MEMS microphone manufactured using printed circuit board fabrication technology to achieve lower per-unit production costs compared to existing silicon-based products. The invention consists of a condenser microphone in which a surface micro-machined diaphragm is separated from a porous backplate on the interior surface of a flat PCB substrate. Not only does this reduce manufacturing costs, it will also speed production and allow for the development of even smaller electronic devices.