American Society of Civil Engineers

Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducers: Theory and Technology

by Arif S. Ergun, (E. L. Ginzton Lab., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA 94305-4088. E-mail:, Goksen G. Yaralioglu, (E. L. Ginzton Lab., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA 94305-4088. E-mail:, and Butrus T. Khuri-Yakub, (E. L. Ginzton Lab., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA 94305-4088. E-mail:

Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Vol. 16, No. 2, April 2003, pp. 76-84, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUTs), introduced about a decade ago, have been shown to be a good alternative to conventional piezoelectric transducers in various aspects, such as sensitivity, transduction efficiency, and bandwidth. In this paper, we discuss the principles of capacitive transducer operation that underlie these aspects. Many of the key features of capacitive ultrasonic transducers are enabled with micromachining technology. Micromachining allows us to miniaturize device dimensions and produce capacitive transducers that perform comparably to their piezoelectric counterparts. The fabrication process is described briefly, and the performance of the CMUT transducers is evaluated by demonstrating characterization results. It is shown that the transduction efficiency as defined by the electromechanical coupling coefficient can be close to unity with proper device design and operating voltage. It is also shown that CMUTs provide large bandwidth (123% fractional bandwidth) in immersion applications which translate into high temporal and axial resolution. Finally, the feasibility of using CMUTs is demonstrated by showing imaging examples in air and in immersion.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Electronic equipment
Imaging techniques