Micromachined microphones with diffraction-based optical displacement detection are introduced. The approach enables interferometric displacement detection sensitivity in a system that can be optoelectronically integrated with a multichip module into mm3
volumes without beamsplitters, focusing optics, or critical alignment problems. Prototype devices fabricated using Sandia National Laboratories’ silicon based SwIFT-Lite™ process are presented and characterized in detail. Integrated electrostatic actuation capabilities of the microphone diaphragm are used to perform dynamic characterization in vacuum and air environments to study the acoustic impedances in an equivalent circuit model of the device. The characterization results are used to predict the thermal mechanical noise spectrum, which is in excellent agreement with measurements performed in an anechoic test chamber. An A weighted displacement noise of 2.4×10−2
measured from individual prototype 2100 μm×2100 μm
diaphragms demonstrates the potential for achieving precision measurement quality microphone performance from elements 1 mm2
in size. The high sensitivity to size ratio coupled with the ability to fabricate elements with precisely matched properties on the same silicon chip may make the approach ideal for realizing high fidelity miniature microphone arrays (sub-cm2
aperture) employing recently developed signal processing algorithms for sound source separation and localization in the audio frequency range.