A VCO-based CMOS readout circuit for capacitive MEMS microphones

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Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) microphone sensors have significantly improved in the past years, while the readout electronic is mainly implemented using switched-capacitor technology. The development of new battery powered 'always-on” applications increasingly requires a low power consumption. In this paper, we show a new readout circuit approach which is based on a mostly digital Sigma Delta (SigmaDelta) analog-to-digital converter (ADC). The operating principle of the readout circuit consists of coupling the MEMS sensor to an impedance converter that modulates the frequency of a stacked-ring oscillator—a new voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) circuit featuring a good trade-off between phase noise and power consumption. The frequency coded signal is then sampled and converted into a noise-shaped digital sequence by a time-to-digital converter (TDC). A time-efficient design methodology has been used to optimize the sensitivity of the oscillator combined with the phase noise induced by 1/𝑓 and thermal noise. The circuit has been prototyped in a 130 nm CMOS process and directly bonded to a standard MEMS microphone. The proposed VCO-based analog-to-digital converter (VCO-ADC) has been characterized electrically and acoustically. The peak signal-to-noise and distortion ratio (SNDR) obtained from measurements is 77.9 dB-A and the dynamic range (DR) is 100 dB-A. The current consumption is 750 muA at 1.8 V and the effective area is 0.12 mm2. This new readout circuit may represent an enabling advance for low-cost digital MEMS microphones.
Mems microphone, Oscillator-based sensor, Sigma-delta modulation, Time-domain circuit, Vco-adc
Bibliographic citation
Quintero, A., Cardes, F., Perez, C., Buffa, C., Wiesbauer, A., & Hernández, L. (2019). A VCO-Based CMOS readout circuit for capacitive MEMS microphones. Sensors, 19(19), 4126.