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 The piezoresistive effect is the changing

electrical resistance of a material due to

applied mechanical stress.
 Electrical resistor will change its resistance
when it experiences a strain and deformation.
 The piezoresistive effect only causes a
change in resistance, it does not produce
electrical charges.
 The piezoresistive effect of semiconductor
materials can be several magnitudes larger
than the geometrical piezoresistive effect in
metals and is present in materials like
germanium, polycrystalline silicon,
amorphous silicon, silicon carbide, and
single crystal silicon.
 Resistance value of a resistor with length, l
and the cross-sectional area, A :
 Resistance value is determined by bulk
resistivity, ρ and the dimensions.
 Two important ways by which the
resistance value change with applied
1. The dimensions including l and A will
change with strain.
2. The resistivity of certain materials may
change as a function of strain. The
magnitude of resistance change from this
principle is much greater than the
dimension changes.
Dimension changes of a resistor under
longitudinal stress B’
Fixed boundaries


pressure pressure

tension compression tension compression

A-A’ cross section B-B’ cross section

(stress along y-axis) (stress along y-axis)
 The change in resistance is linearly related to
the applied strain.
R L
 G.

 The proportional constant G is called gauge

factor and defined in the below equation.
G R 
l R
Three cases of piezoresistive force sensors (longitudinal and
transverse piezoresistor configurations).



Longitudinal Transverse
piezoresistor piezoresistor
 Resistance changes often read using
Wheatstone bridge.
 Consists of 4 resistor connected in loop.
 Vin is applied across two junctions that are
separated by 2 resistors.
 Voltage drop across the two junctions forms
the output.
 One or more resistors in the loop may be
sensing the resistors, whose resistances
change with the intended variables.
Wheatstone bridge

R1 R2 Rs R

Vout Vout

R4 R

Rs  R  R
 R2 R4 
Vout    Vin
 R1  R 2 R3  R 4  1  R
Vout  ( )Vin
2 2 R  R
 Under a transverse loading of a concentrated force
at the free end, the torque distribution through the
beam is non-uniform- zero at free end and maxim
at the fixed end.
 At any cross section, the signs of the longitudinal
stresses change across the neutral axis.
 The magnitude of stresses at any point on the
cross section is linearly proportional with the
respect to the distance to the neutral axis.
 The magnitude of max stresses + individual cross
sections changes linearly with respect to the
distance to the free end, reaching a section-wide
max at the top and bottom surfaces. The
piezoresistors are commonly found on the surface
of cantilever and near the fixed end.
Stress distribution in a uniform and symmetric cantilever beam.
Stress in Flexural Cantilevers

The total torque given by the area integral of normal force

acting on given area dA, called dF(x,h) multiplied by the
arm distance between the force and the neutral plane:
M   dF ( x, h)h    ( ( x, h)dA)h
A w t

The magnitude of stress linearly related to h and is the

greatest at the surface (denoted σmax(x)) at any given
cross section, the torque balance equation at any given
cross section yields:
M   ( max ( x) dA)h
w h t ( )
2 2
The maximum strain for the entire cantilever occurs at the
fixed end, where x=L. In fact, the sole interest to find the
magnitude of the maximum stress/strain at the fixed end.
The maximum strain is expressed as a function of total
torque M(x):
M ( x )t FLt
 max  
2 EI 2 EI
Design of cantilevers with piezoresistors


ineffective design #1

ineffective design #2
Stress Analysis on Mechanical Elements:
Stress and deformation in the membrane
The governing equation for membrane under a uniform
pressure loading p is,
4w 4w 4w p
2 2 2  4 
x 4 x y y D

w is the normal displacement of the membrane at a

location (x,y).
E is Young Modulus, t is thickness and v is Poisson ratio
D is the rigidity of the membrane and given by

Et 3
12(1   2 )
Stress in the membrane

Normalized displacement (left) and

stress in the x-axis (right)
Stress in the membrane

The max displacement at the center (wcenter) of a rectangular

diaphragm (a x b) under a uniform pressure, p is
pb 4
wcenter 
Et 3
α is determined by the ratio of a to b. The max stress (at the
center point of the long edge) and the stress in the center of
the plate are
1 pb 2
 max 

 2 pb 2
 center 
a/b 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2.0 
β1 0.3078 0.3834 0.4356 0.4680 0.4872 0.4974 0.5000
β2 0.1386 0.1794 0.2094 0.2286 0.2406 0.2472 0.2500
α 0.0138 0.0188 0.0226 0.0251 0.0267 0.0277 0.0284

Bending of rectangular plate under uniform stress

1. Inertia Sensors
• Under an applied acceleration, a proof mass experiences an inertial forces, which in turn
deforms mechanical support elements connected to proof mass and introduce stress and
strain. By measuring the magnitude of stress, value of acceleration can be determined.

2. Pressure Sensors
• For an example bulk micromachined pressure sensor with Wheatstone Bridge configuration.
These 4 piezoresistor are located correspond to regions of maximum tensile stress when the
diaphragm is bent by a uniform applied pressure difference across the diaphragm.

3. Tactile Sensors
• Used to measure contact forces and to characterize surface profiles and roughness.
Micromachined tactile sensor has the potential of high density integration.

4. Flow Sensors
1. Microstructure is used for flow sensing. Fluid flow around microstructure can balance a lifting
force, drag force or momentum transfer on a floating element.
Problem 1
A square membrane with four piezoresistors is
diagramed below. Resistors R1 and R4 are located on at
the mid points of two edges. Resistors R2 and R3 are
located in the center of the membrane. The size of the
membrane is b, and the thickness t. A pressure
difference, p is applied across the membrane. Find the
analytical expression of output voltage under two
Wheatstone bridge configuration depicted in (a) and (b).