The assignee for this patent, patent number 8643361, is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Sensors according to the state of the art often are provided as integrated sensors on semiconductor chips.
"Such sensors may be humidity sensors which use a layer of a humidity sensitive material arranged on a semiconductor chip, as it is described in WO 01/42776. Other types of sensors e.g. use metal oxide technologies and are adapted to measure various types of substances in gases or liquids. Typical substances that can be measured are e.g. CO, CO.sub.2, NO.sub.x, volatile organic compounds (VOC), in particular any type of gaseous organic compounds, and any other types of compound.
"Semiconductor chips are usually manufactured in wafers, where each wafer may comprise hundreds or more chips. After manufacturing, the wafers are cut to separate the chips from each other, place them in a suitable housing and calibrate each sensor individually by exposure to fluids of known composition, as it is e.g. described in WO 01/40784.
"For improving the calibration process it is suggested to calibrate the sensors prior to separating the semiconductor chips which also is called as calibration on a 'wafer level'. For implementing such calibration routine, U.S. Pat. No. 7,281,405 B1 discloses an apparatus with a chuck for holding a wafer with sensors to be calibrated, and a lid arranged above the chuck and facing the wafer. The lid provides an opening in which a probe head is arranged. The probe head has the form of a flat plate fixed to the lid and an opening at its centre. Needle electrodes in form of cantilevers are fixed at the lower surface of the plate. The chuck may be moved laterally with respect to the lid such that the needle electrodes can be positioned on suitable pads on the wafer for producing calibration measurements. In order to expose the sensors on the wafer to a calibration environment, the lid includes a circular feed duct and small openings facing the wafer for providing calibration gas supplied via the feed duct and emanating from the small openings.
"However, since the probe head is located in the middle of the lid and is fixed within the opening of the lid, there cannot be calibration gas supplied directly to this area. On the other hand, this area represents the location where the measurement is performed by means of the needle electrodes, such that it is unfortunate that this location cannot be directly exposed to the calibration gas."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The problem to be solved by the present invention is therefore to provide an apparatus and a method for improving the measurement environment in the close vicinity of an electronic component currently investigated.
"This problem is solved according to a first aspect of the present invention by a needle head according to the features of independent claim 1. The needle head is designed for electrically contacting an electronic component and comprises a body with a lower surface and needle electrodes emerging from the lower surface. In addition, there are provided multiple outlets arranged in the lower surface. A channel between an inlet in the body and the outlets is provided for conveying a medium from the inlet to the outlets.
"By implementing a medium supply through the needle head and having the medium pour directly onto the one or more electronic components presently under test, the testing environment is improved. Consequently, even more accurate test results may be generated, and--provided the test is implemented as a calibration routine--such improved testing environment will also improve the operation of the electronic component, as more accurate calibration parameters will be generated and used for interpreting a measured signal of the electronic component in operation. The test environment, which may include, for example, a well-defined gas concentration to which the electronic component shall be exposed to, is improved since the electronic component under test is directly loaded with such gas for the reason that the outlet for the gas is arranged in the needle head in the immediate vicinity of the electronic component to be tested. It is noted, that the electronic component may preferably be a sensor, however, it may also be any other electronic component with a need for exposure to a test environment. The reason for exposing such electronic component to a test environment may be testing the component, or, for example, calibrating the component. The medium used for establishing the test environment may be any medium such as a gas or a liquid to which the electronic component is expected to be exposed to in operation.
"Such needle head may advantageously be integrated into a probe arrangement with a panel, a channel in such panel, and at least one outlet arranged in a lower surface of the panel, wherein a medium supplied to the channel may emanate from the channel through the outlets of the panel. In such arrangement, the wafer may also be exposed to the medium in its periphery such that a large area is exposed to the test environment which is beneficial for the reliability and accurateness of the measurement. In such embodiment, the channel in the panel may be connected to the channel in the needle head and provide the medium to the needle head via the panel. Alternatively, the medium may be supplied to the needle head by other means outside the panel. In another embodiment of a probe arrangement, the channels in the panel and the needle head are connected such that the medium emanating from the needle head is supplied via the panel. However, it may not be necessary that the medium additionally emanates from the panel itself for exposing also the periphery of the wafer to the medium. Such effect may also be achieved by other medium supply means.
"According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method for electrically contacting multiple electronic components, in which a wafer including the electronic components is provided as well as a needle head. The inlet of the needle head is supplied with the medium the electronic components shall be exposed to. Multiple of these electronic components are contacted simultaneously by the needle electrodes. Signals accessible at the needle electrodes are measured, preferably simultaneously for multiple electronic components. These signals are measured when the electronic component is impacted by the medium transferred through the needle head.
"By means of this method, a test or calibration routine may be implemented for multiple electronic components simultaneously, thereby substantially saving time in the production process.
"For other advantageous embodiments it is referred to the dependent claims. It is noted that embodiments referred to or claimed only in connection with the apparatus shall be disclosed in connection with the method, too, and vice versa."
For more information, see this patent: Graf,
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