Heat Transport in Silicon Nitride Drum Resonators and its Influence on Thermal Fluctuation-induced Frequency Noise
Silicon nitride (SiN) drumhead resonators offer a promising platform for thermal sensing due to their high mechanical quality factor and the high temperature sensitivity of their resonance frequency. As such, gaining an understanding of heat transport in SiN resonators as well as their sensing noise limitations is of interest, both of which are goals of the present work. We first present new experimental results on radiative heat transport in SiN membrane, which we use for benchmarking two recently proposed theoretical models. We measure the characteristic thermal response time of square SiN membranes with a thickness of 90 $\pm$ 1.7 nm and side lengths from 1.5 to 12 mm. A clear transition between radiation and conduction dominated heat transport is measured, in close correspondence with theory. In the second portion of this work, we use our experimentally validated heat transport model to provide a closed-form expression for thermal fluctuation-induced frequency noise in SiN membrane resonators. We find that, for large area SiN membranes, thermal fluctuations can be greater than thermomechanical contributions to frequency noise. For the specific case of thermal radiation sensing applications, we also derive the noise equivalent power resulting from thermal fluctuation-induced frequency noise, and we show in which conditions it reduces to the classical detectivity limit of thermal radiation sensors. Our work therefore provides a path towards achieving thermal radiation sensors operating at the never attained fundamental detectivity limit of bolometric sensing. We also identify questions that remain when attempting to push the limits of radiation sensing, in particular, the effect of thermal fluctuation noise in closed-loop frequency tracking schemes remains to be clarified.