A sensor concept is developed and analyzed for in situ characterization of a thin dielectric layer. An array of long, planar electrodes is flush-mounted into opposing faces of two substrates on either side of the dielectric layer. The substrates are oriented such that the lengthwise dimensions of the opposing electrodes are orthogonal. Capacitance is measured between single electrode pairs on opposite substrates while all other electrodes are grounded. The electric field between the active electrodes is sharply focused at their crossing point, resulting in high sensitivity to void content in a square detection zone of the dielectric layer. For a fixed interfacial gap size, direct proportionality of the capacitance with void fraction within the detection zone is poor for high electrode-to-electrode spacing on the substrates, but improves dramatically as this spacing is reduced. Three methods of deriving a simulationbased sensitivity response of measured capacitance to any arbitrary two-dimensional void geometry are investigated. The best method requires data from simulations of an empty air gap and a TIM-filled gap, and uses a reduced-order superposition technique to predict the normalized capacitance value obtained for any void geometry to within 10% of that predicted by a high-fidelity direct simulation. The sensing technique is demonstrated using manually introduced voids of 250 μm–2000 μm diameter in a 254 μm thick interface material layer with a dielectric constant of 4.7. The relationship of the capacitance to the void fraction is shown to fall within the predicted bounds.


thermal interface, dielectric, capacitance, impedance, nondestructive, void, tomography

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S. H. Taylor and S. V. Garimella, “Near-Field Focusing Sensor for Characterization of Void Content in Thin Dielectric Layers,” Measurement Science and Technology, Vol. 26, 015601, 2015.