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Microfabricated 1-3 composite acoustic matching layers for 15 MHz transducers


Medical ultrasound transducers require matching layers to couple energy from the piezoelectric ceramic into the tissue. Composites of type 0-3 are often used to obtain the desired acoustic impedances, but they introduce challenges at high frequencies, i.e. non-uniformity, attenuation, and dispersion.

This paper presents novel acoustic matching layers made as 1-3 silicon-polymer composites, fabricated by deep reactive ion etch (DRIE). This fabrication method is well-established for high-volume production in the microtechnology industry. First estimates for the acoustic properties were found from the iso-strain theory, while the finite element method (FEM) was employed for more accurate modeling. The composites were used as single matching layers in 15 MHz ultrasound transducers. Acoustic properties of the composite were estimated by fitting the electrical impedance measurements to the Mason model.

Five composites were fabricated. All had period 16 μm, while the silicon width was varied to cover silicon volume fractions between 0.17 and 0.28. Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) wafers were used to get a controlled etch stop against the buried oxide layer at a defined depth, resulting in composites with thickness 83 μm. A slight tapering of the silicon side walls was observed; their widths were 0.9 μm smaller at the bottom than at the top, corresponding to a tapering angle of 0.3°. Acoustic parameters estimated from electrical impedance measurements were lower than predicted from the iso-strain model, but fitted within 5% to FEM simulations. The deviation was explained by dispersion caused by the finite dimensions of the composite and by the tapered walls. Pulse-echo measurements on a transducer with silicon volume fraction 0.17 showed a two-way -6dB relative bandwidth of 50%. The pulse-echo measurements agreed with predictions from the Mason model when using material parameter values estimated from electrical impedance measurements.

The results show the feasibility of the fabrication method and the theoretical description. A next step would be to include these composites as one of several layers in an acoustic matching layer stack.


Academic article





  • University of South-Eastern Norway
  • SINTEF Digital / Smart Sensors and Microsystems
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology



Published in









1141 - 1149

View this publication at Cristin