Piezoresistive properties of ceramic strain sensors with controlled nanoporosity

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



A ceramic strain gage based on reactively sputtered indium tin oxide thin films is being developed to monitor the structural integrity of components employed in aerospace propulsion systems that operate at temperatures in excess of 1500°C. When relatively thick indium-tinoxide (ITO) strain gages were prepared by reactive sputtering in oxygen:argon atmospheres and annealed in nitrogen, an extremely stable piezoresistive response was observed at temperatures as high as 1530°C. SEM and AFM of these sensor surfaces after high temperature exposure revealed a partially sintered microstructure with interconnected nanoporosity. Specifically, the microstructure consisted of a contiguous network of uniform sized ITO particles with well-defined necks between individual particles. When these microstructures were compared to those of relatively thin ITO sensors sputtered in nitrogen:argon:oxygen atmospheres, i.e. ITO films prepared in a nitrogen rich plasma, the average pore size and particle size was estimated to be an order of magnitude smaller than those associate with thick ITO sensors. In the nitrogen sputtered films, enhanced electrical conduction along the surfaces of the contiguous ITO particles resulted in a very stable and large piezoresistive response with a gage factor of 11.4 and a drift rate of 0.0001%/hour at 1560°C. The improved performance realized when the ITO films were processed in nitrogen may be extended to other ITO based sensors including gas sensors and the advantages of films processed in this manner will be discussed.

Publication Title

Materials Research Society Symposium - Proceedings