Microsystems and integrated smart sensors represent a flourishing business thanks to the manifold benefits of these devices with respect to their respective macroscopic counterparts. Miniaturization to micrometric scale is a turning point to obtain high sensitive and reliable devices with enhanced spatial and temporal
resolution. Power consumption compatible with battery operated systems, and reduced cost per device are also pivotal for their success. All these characteristics make investigation on this filed very active nowadays.
This thesis work is focused on two main themes: (i) design and development of a single chip smart flow-meter; (ii) design and development of readout interfaces for capacitive micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) based on capacitance to pulse width modulation conversion.
High sensitivity integrated smart sensors for detecting very small flow rates of both gases and liquids aiming to fulfil emerging demands for this kind of devices in the industrial to environmental and medical applications. On the other hand, the prototyping of such sensor is a multidisciplinary activity involving the study of
thermal and fluid dynamic phenomenon that have to be considered to obtain a correct design. Design, assisted by finite elements CAD tools, and fabrication of the sensing structures using features of a standard CMOS process is discussed in the first chapter. The packaging of fluidic sensors issue is also illustrated as it has a
great importance on the overall sensor performances. The package is charged to allow optimal interaction between fluids and the sensors and protecting the latter from the external environment. As miniaturized structures allows a great spatial resolution, it is extremely challenging to fabricate low cost packages for multiple flow rate measurements on the same chip. As a final point, a compact anemometer prototype, usable for wireless sensor network nodes, is described.
The design of the full custom circuitry for signal extraction and conditioning is coped in the second chapter, where insights into the design methods are given for analog basic building blocks such as amplifiers, transconductors, filters, multipliers,
current drivers. A big effort has been put to find reusable design guidelines and
trade-offs applicable to different design cases. This kind of rational design enabled the implementation of complex and flexible functionalities making the interface circuits able to interact both with on chip sensors and external sensors.
In the third chapter, the chip floor-plan designed in the STMicroelectronics BCD6s
process of the entire smart flow sensor formed by the sensing structures and the readout electronics is presented. Some preliminary tests are also covered here.
Finally design and implementation of very low power interfaces for typical MEMS
capacitive sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes, pressure sensors, angular displacement and chemical species sensors) is discussed. Very original circuital topologies, based on chopper modulation technique, will be illustrated. A prototype, designed within a joint research activity is presented. Measured performances
spurred the investigation of new techniques to enhance precision and accuracy capabilities of the interface.
A brief introduction to the design of active pixel sensors interface for hybrid CMOS
imagers is sketched in the appendix as a preliminary study done during an internship in the CNM-IMB institute of Barcelona.