Absorber-coupled microwave kinetic inductance detector (MKID) arrays were developed for submillimeter and farinfrared astronomy. These sensors comprise arrays of lambda/2 stepped microwave impedance resonators patterned on a 1.5-mm-thick silicon membrane, which is optimized for optical coupling. The detector elements are supported on a 380-mm-thick micromachined silicon wafer. The resonators consist of parallel plate aluminum transmission lines coupled to low-impedance Nb microstrip traces of variable length, which set the resonant frequency of each resonator. This allows for multiplexed microwave readout and, consequently, good spatial discrimination between pixels in the array. The transmission lines simultaneously act to absorb optical power and employ an appropriate surface impedance and effective filling fraction. The fabrication techniques demonstrate high-fabrication yield of MKID arrays on large, single- crystal membranes and sub-micron front-to-back alignment of the microstrip circuit.

An MKID is a detector that operates upon the principle that a superconducting material’s kinetic inductance and surface resistance will change in response to being exposed to radiation with a power density sufficient to break its Cooper pairs. When integrated as part of a resonant circuit, the change in surface impedance will result in a shift in its resonance frequency and a decrease of its quality factor. In this approach, incident power creates quasiparticles inside a superconducting resonator, which is configured to match the impedance of free space in order to absorb the radiation being detected. For this reason MKIDs are attractive for use in large-format focal plane arrays, because they are easily multiplexed in the frequency domain and their fabrication is straightforward.

The fabrication process can be summarized in seven steps: (1) Alignment marks are lithographically patterned and etched all the way through a silicon on insulator (SOI) wafer, which consists of a thin silicon membrane bonded to a thick silicon handle wafer. (2) The metal microwave circuitry on the front of the membrane is patterned and etched. (3) The wafer is then temporarily bonded with wafer wax to a Pyrex wafer, with the SOI side abutting the Pyrex. (4) The silicon handle component of the SOI wafer is subsequently etched away so as to expose the membrane backside. (5) The wafer is flipped over, and metal microwave circuitry is patterned and etched on the membrane backside. Furthermore, cuts in the membrane are made so as to define the individual detector array chips. (6) Silicon frames are micromachined and glued to the silicon membrane. (7) The membranes, which are now attached to the frames, are released from the Pyrex wafer via dissolution of the wafer wax in acetone.

This work was done by Ari Brown, Wen- Ting Hsieh, Samuel Moseley, Thomas Stevenson, Kongpop U-Yen, and Edward Wollack of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16202-1