A micro electro mechanical sensor that uses capacitive readout electronics. The sensor involves a micromachined low frequency rocking accelerometer with capacitive pickoff fabricated by deep reactive ion etching. The accelerometer includes a central silicon proof mass, is suspended by a thin polysilicon tether, and has a moving electrode (capacitor plate or interdigitated fingers) located at each end the proof mass. During movement (acceleration), the tethered mass moves relative to the surrounding packaging, for example, and this defection is measured capacitively by a plate capacitor or interdigitated finger capacitor, having the cooperating fixed electrode (capacitor plate or interdigitated fingers) positioned on the packaging, for example. The micromachined rocking accelerometer has a low frequency (<500 Hz), high sensitivity (.mu.G), with minimal power usage. The capacitors are connected to a power supply (battery) and to sensor interface electronics, which may include an analog to digital (A/D) converter, logic, RF communication link, antenna, etc. The sensor (accelerometer) may be, for example, packaged along with the interface electronics and a communication system in a 2".times.2".times.2" cube. The proof mass may be asymmetric or symmetric. Additional actuating capacitive plates may be used for feedback control which gives a greater dynamic range.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.