A miniature high-sensitivity broad-band accelerometer based on electron tunneling transducers

Howard K. Rockstad, T. W. Kenny, J. K. Reynolds, W. J. Kaiser, Thomas B. Gabrielson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


New high sensitivity microsensors have been developed using high-resolution position sensors based on electron tunneling. The design of miniature accelerometers having resolutions approaching 10-9 g/√Hz is discussed. A new dual-element electron tunneling structure, which overcomes bandwidth limitations of single-element structures, allows design of high sensitivity accelerometers operating in a band from a few Hz to several kHz. A miniature accelerometer based on this structure can thus have application as a sensitive acoustic sensor. Thermal vibration of the proof mass is an extremely important constraint in miniature accelerometers, and can be the dominant limitation on the sensitivity. Thermal noise is analyzed for the suspended masses of the dual-element structure, and compared with electronic noise in the tunneling circuit. With a proof mass of 100 mg, noise analysis predicts limiting resolutions better than 10-8 g/√Hz between 10 and 100 Hz, and 10-7 g/√Hz at 1 kHz. Prototype accelerometers have been fabricated by silicon micromachining and tested. A noise resolution of 10-7 g/√Hz between 4 and 70 Hz and 6 × 10-7 g/√Hz at 400 Hz is observed in a damped device. The low-frequency responsivity of this device is 100 000 V/g, decreasing to 1300 V/g at 600 Hz.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-114
Number of pages8
JournalSensors and Actuators: A. Physical
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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