Unconventional Microfabrication Using Polymers

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Cannon, Andrew Hampton
King, William P.
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Current microfabrication materials include silicon, a wide variety of metals, dielectrics, and some polymers. Because of the low cost and high processing flexibility that polymers generally have, expanding the use of polymers in microfabrication would benefit the microfabrication community, enabling new routes towards goals such as low-cost 3D microfabrication. This work describes two main unconventional uses of polymers in microfabrication. The first unconventional use is as a carrier material in the self-assembly (SA) of millimeter-scale parts in which functional electronic components and electrical interconnects were cast into 5 mm cubes of Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). The second unconventional use is as a non-flat micromold for an alumina ceramic and as transfer material for multiple layers of micropatterned carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Both of these uses demonstrate 3D low-cost microfabrication routes. In the SA chapter, surface forces induced both gross and fine alignment of the PMMA cubes. The cubes were bonded using low-melting temperature solder, resulting in a self-assembled 3D circuit of LEDs and capacitors. The PMMA-encasulated parts were immersed in methyl methacrylate (MMA) to dissolve the PMMA, showing the possibility of using MEMS devices with moving parts such as mechanical actuators or resonators. This technique could be expanded for assembly of systems having more than 104 components. The ultimate goal is to combine a large number of diverse active components to allow the manufacture of systems having dense integrated functionality. The ceramic micromolding chapter explores micromolding fabrication of alumina ceramic microstructures on flat and curved surfaces, transfer of carbon nanotube (CNT) micropatterns into the ceramic, and oxidation inhibition of these CNTs through ceramic encapsulation. Microstructured master mold templates were fabricated from etched silicon, embossed thermally sacrificial polymer, and flexible polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The polymer templates were themselves made from silicon masters. Thus, once the master is produced, no further access to a microfabrication facility is required. Using the flexible PDMS molds, ceramic structures with mm-scale curvature were fabricated having microstructures on either the inside or outside of the curved macrostructure. It was possible to embed CNTs into the ceramic microstructures. To do this, micropatterned CNTs on silicon were transferred to ceramic via vacuum molding. Multilayered micropatterned CNT-ceramic devices were fabricated, and CNT electrical traces were encapsulated with ceramic to inhibit oxidation. During oxidation trials, encapsulated CNT traces showed an increase in resistance that was 62% less than those that were not encapsulated.
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