Microsystems & Nanoengineering ( IF 5.071 ) Pub Date : 2018-06-18 , DOI: 10.1038/s41378-018-0014-5 Adrien Toros, Marcell Kiss, Teodoro Graziosi, Hamed Sattari, Pascal Gallo, Niels Quack
The outstanding material properties of single crystal diamond have been at the origin of the long-standing interest in its exploitation for engineering of high-performance micro- and nanosystems. In particular, the extreme mechanical hardness, the highest elastic modulus of any bulk material, low density, and the promise for low friction have spurred interest most notably for micro-mechanical and MEMS applications. While reactive ion etching of diamond has been reported previously, precision structuring of freestanding micro-mechanical components in single crystal diamond by deep reactive ion etching has hitherto remained elusive, related to limitations in the etch processes, such as the need of thick hard masks, micromasking effects, and limited etch rates. In this work, we report on an optimized reactive ion etching process of single crystal diamond overcoming several of these shortcomings at the same time, and present a robust and reliable method to produce fully released micro-mechanical components in single crystal diamond. Using an optimized Al/SiO2 hard mask and a high-intensity oxygen plasma etch process, we obtain etch rates exceeding 30 µm/h and hard mask selectivity better than 1:50. We demonstrate fully freestanding micro-mechanical components for mechanical watches made of pure single crystal diamond. The components with a thickness of 150 µm are defined by lithography and deep reactive ion etching, and exhibit sidewall angles of 82°–93° with surface roughness better than 200 nm rms, demonstrating the potential of this powerful technique for precision microstructuring of single crystal diamond.