A thermal flow transduction method combining the advantages of calorimetric and hot-film transduction principles is developed and analyzed by Finite Element Method (FEM) simulations and confirmed experimentally. The analyses include electrothermal feedback effects of current driven NTC thermistors. Four thin-film germanium thermistors acting simultaneously as heat sources and as temperature sensors are embedded in a micromachined silicon-nitride membrane. These devices form a self-heated Wheatstone bridge that is unbalanced by convective cooling. The voltage across the bridge and the total dissipated power are exploited as output quantities. The used thin-film thermistors feature an extremely high temperature sensitivity. Combined with properly designed resistance values, a power demand in sub-1mW range enables efficient gas-flow transduction, as confirmed by measurements. Two sensor configurations with different arrangements of the membrane thermistors were examined experimentally. Moreover, we investigated the influence of different layouts on the rise time, the sensitivity, and the usable flow range by means of two-dimensional finite element simulations. The simulation results are in reasonable agreement with corresponding measurement data confirming the basic assumptions and modeling approach.
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