Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Engineering - Materials Engineering


Materials Engineering


Richard Savage


A piezoelectric microspeaker device that could be used in a variety of acoustic applications was designed and fabricated using a thin film ZnO layer that was reactively DC sputtered onto a single crystalline n-type silicon substrate. When tested the microspeaker did not produce sound due to complications in the etching process, the thickness of the diaphragms, and clamping effects. Instead, a characterization approach was taken and the structural, optical, electrical, and piezoelectric properties of the ZnO were investigated. Scanning electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and atomic force microscopy were utilized to discover the ZnO’s structural properties. Using the XRD and SEM, the as-sputtered ZnO films were found to have highly c-axis oriented columnar crystals. Optical properties were determined from the reflectance spectrums obtained from a Filmetrics F20 reflectometer and were used to determine the film thickness, the optical constants, and the optical band gap of the ZnO thin films. Using a four-point probe, the as-sputtered ZnO films were found to be highly resistive and insulative, mainly due to voided growth boundaries between the crystals. To improve electrical conductivity and piezoelectric response, ZnO samples were annealed at varying temperatures in a nitrogen environment. The annealing process successfully increased the electrical conductivity and piezoelectric properties of the films. The local piezoelectric properties of the ZnO were discovered with an Asylum MFP-3D and a piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) technique called DART-PFM. The ZnO films that were sputtered with 70 watts and an argon to oxygen gas ratio of 2:1 were found to have the highest d33 piezoelectric coefficients. The ZnO sample that was annealed at 600°C for 30 minutes had the highest overall d33 value of 4.0 pm/V, which means that the 600°C annealed ZnO films would have the best chance of making a functional microspeaker.