Digitialization of materials research on thin-film materials using the example of high-resolution piezoelectric ultrasonic sensors.

Project runtime: 01.04.2023 – 31.03.2026






Thin films for high-resolution ultrasonic sensors

Thin films appear in a wide variety of fields: In medical technology, in the semiconductor industry, in optics and sensor technology. In particular, the coating processes, i.e. the production of the thin layers on a carrier material, pose a special challenge: Numerous parameters have to be taken into account here, which also interact with each other and have a very strong influence on the properties of the material. The previous experience-based approach to coating production is often no longer sufficient to produce coatings of consistently high quality. A complete digital representation of the coating process can help to overcome this problem. This is where the DigiMatUs project comes into play. The aim is to create the basis for greatly reducing the cost of researching and optimizing thin-film materials. This is demonstrated in concrete terms by the example of ultrasonic microscopy. Piezoelectric materials are used to manufacture ultrasound objectives. These materials deform as soon as an electrical voltage is applied to the material. In this way, for example, switches can be operated that close or break electrical circuits. In the field of ultrasonic microscopy and sensor technology, the great challenge is that the structures to be examined are becoming ever smaller (e.g., components in semiconductors or even biological cells) and therefore the ultrasonic microscope must emit sound pulses at ever smaller intervals. For this purpose, switching must be increasingly faster, for which the piezoelectric material is used. The requirements for quality and reproducibility in the thin-film structure and in the manufacture and operation of the ultrasonic components thus increase immensely. DigiMatUs will use standardized data acquisition, storage and processing to convert the relationships between the individual parameters and properties into a complete description of the manufacturing process. This will enable a digital description of the material class along the process development and value chain and create a so-called "digital twin". On the one hand, for the selected application of ultrasonic microscopy, this means that the performance and resolution of the ultrasonic objectives will be significantly and reproducibly increased, but on the other hand, it also means that this description will be available for other applications in which thin layers are used and will not have to be laboriously researched anew.