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1. WO2020118135 - ULTRASOUND FINGERPRINT DETECTION AND RELATED APPARATUS AND METHODS

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]

ULTRASOUND FINGERPRINT DETECTION AND RELATED APPARATUS AND

METHODS

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S.

Patent Application Serial No. 62/776,922, filed December 7, 2018 under Attorney Docket No.

B 1348.70113US00, and entitled“ULTRASOUND FINGERPRINT DETECTION AND RELATED APPARATUS AND METHODS,” which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Field

[0002] The present application relates to fingerprint detection using ultrasound.

Related Art

[0003] Some micromachined ultrasonic transducers include a flexible membrane suspended above a substrate. A cavity is located between part of the substrate and the membrane, such that the combination of the substrate, cavity, and membrane form a variable capacitor. If actuated, the membrane may generate an ultrasound signal. In response to receiving an ultrasound signal, the membrane may vibrate, resulting in output of an electrical signal.

BRIEF SUMMARY

[0004] Ultrasound fingerprint detection apparatus and methods are described. In some aspects, the fingerprint sensor includes an ultrasound-on-a-chip device having microfabricated ultrasonic transducers integrated with circuitry. The circuitry may be integrated circuitry of a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) substrate. The fingerprint sensor may be part of a smartphone, tablet computer, laptop computer, or other device for which detecting a fingerprint is desired.

[0005] According to some aspects, an ultrasound fingerprint apparatus is provided comprising a micromachined ultrasonic transducer comprising a substrate having a cavity, a membrane coupled to the substrate such that the cavity separates the membrane from at least a portion of the substrate, and first and second electrodes on the substrate and opposite the membrane arranged so that at least part of the first electrode is arranged within the interior of at least a portion of the second electrode.

[0006] According to some aspects, an ultrasound fingerprint apparatus is provided comprising a micromachined ultrasonic transducer configured to emit ultrasound of at least two different frequencies and to detect a fingerprint based on detection of the emitted ultrasound of the at least two different frequencies.

[0007] According to some aspects, a mobile electronic device with fingerprint detection is provided comprising a housing, an ultrasound-on-a-chip device disposed within the housing, and a display coupled to the housing, wherein the ultrasound-on-a-chip device is disposed between the housing and the display and configured to emit through the display ultrasound of a first frequency spectrum and ultrasound of a second frequency spectrum, different from the first frequency spectrum.

[0008] According to some aspects, a method of detecting a fingerprint is provided, the method comprising emitting, from a micromachined ultrasonic transducer, ultrasound of a first frequency spectrum and receiving first ultrasound reflected from a finger, emitting, from the micromachined ultrasonic transducer, ultrasound of a second frequency spectrum, different from the first frequency spectrum, and receiving second ultrasound reflected from the finger, and detecting the fingerprint based at least in part on the received first ultrasound and the received second ultrasound.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0009] Various aspects and embodiments of the application will be described with reference to the following figures. It should be appreciated that the figures are not necessarily drawn to scale. Items appearing in multiple figures are indicated by the same reference number in all the figures in which they appear.

[0010] FIG. 1 depicts an ultrasound fingerprint sensor detecting a subject’s finger at multiple depths, according to a non-limiting embodiment;

[0011] FIGs. 2A-2D depict dual-electrode capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers, according to non-limiting embodiments;

[0012] FIG. 2E depicts a cross-sectional view of the dual-electrode capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer of FIG. 2A, according to a non-limiting embodiment;

[0013] FIG. 3 shows an illustrative example of how an individual transducer element in a transducer array may be arranged with respect to CMOS circuitry for that element;

[0014] FIGs. 4A-4B depict exterior and cross-sectional views, respectively, of a mobile telephone comprising an ultrasound fingerprint sensor, according to a non-limiting embodiment;

[0015] FIGs. 5A-5B depict images of a finger obtained by scanning the finger at two different depths, according to some embodiments; and

[0016] FIG. 6 is a flowchart of a method of detecting a fingerprint based on images of a finger scanned at two different depths, according to some embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0017] Aspects of the present application provide techniques for ultrasound fingerprint detection. In some embodiments, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may operate at multiple different frequencies to image different aspects— such as different depths for example— of a subject’s finger. As referred to herein, the operation of an ultrasound sensor at different frequencies refers to production of ultrasound with two different frequency spectra, which may include, but is not limited to, ultrasound with a first peak frequency and ultrasound with a second peak frequency different than the first peak frequency. The techniques described herein resolve different depths of a fingerprint being scanned via the application of two or more different ultrasound signals. According to some embodiments, these techniques may be applied in cases where the two or more signals probe different depths in the finger through some difference in their respective frequency spectra, wherein a wide variety of such differences may be envisioned.

[0018] Since different ultrasound frequencies are expected to penetrate a subject’s finger to different depths degrees, probing or imaging a finger using multiple ultrasound peak frequencies or frequency bands may provide information on different physical aspects of the finger. For instance, some ultrasound frequencies may reflect from the surface of the skin, and then be used to sense a surface of the skin, whereas other ultrasound frequencies may penetrate through one or more of the epidermal, dermal and/or subcutaneous layers and therefore be used to sense features beneath the surface of the skin. In some embodiments, the ultrasound fingerprint sensor employs a dual-electrode configuration to generate and detect different peak ultrasound frequencies. The“dual-electrode” nature of this configuration refers to one side of the capacitive transducer cavity; it will be appreciated that an ultrasound fingerprint detector may include one or more electrodes opposing the“dual-electrode” side of the transducer. The ultrasound fingerprint sensor may have utility in various applications, including but not limited to mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones or tablet computers, a laptop computer or biometric access equipment (e.g., a fingerprint sensor terminal).

[0019] While embodiments described herein are arranged with the“dual-electrode” side of the transducer being below the cavity, it will be appreciated that the dual-electrode side of the transducer could instead be arranged above the cavity. There may be an advantage to arrange the dual-electrode side below the cavity to be closer to other electronic components to which it is coupled, but in principle either arrangement may be employed.

[0020] Aspects of the present application provide an ultrasound fingerprint sensor configured to produce ultrasound signals of at least two different frequencies and to sense reflections of the ultrasound signals from a subject’s finger. It will be appreciated that references herein to detection of a“fingerprint” may refer to detection of any physiological features of a user relating to the fingertip, and may not directly relate to the ridges of the epidermal fingerprint. For instance, measurements of subcutaneous features of a user’s finger may be representative of that user, and may in some cases be unique, though measurements of these features may not directly measure epidermal ridges. Measurements of these types are considered herein to all relate to the“fingerprint” of a user as determined via the techniques described.

[0021] FIG. 1 depicts an example of an ultrasound beam extending from an ultrasound fingerprint sensor to two different depths, D1 and D2, of a subject’s finger, according to some embodiments. The ultrasound fingerprint sensor may in some cases comprise a capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT), and in some cases may comprise an array of CMUTs which together perform sensing of a target. In the example of FIG. 1, a subject’s finger 105 may be scanned at two different depths D1 and D2 by ultrasound signals 111 and 112 of different frequencies. In the example of FIG. 1, the depth D1 is at the surface of the skin of finger 105 and depth D2 is below the surface of the skin. For purposes of clarity a small gap is shown in the figure between the finger 105 and the sensor 110, although it will be appreciated that in some cases such a gap may not be present, and in fact it may be desirable for there to be no gap between the finger and sensor to reduce reflections of the ultrasound signal as it travels from the ultrasound fingerprint sensor to the finger 105. The ultrasound signals 111 and 112 are emitted by an ultrasound fingerprint sensor 110, simultaneously or sequentially. In some embodiments, the ultrasound fingerprint sensor 110 may be, or may be part of, an ultrasound-on-a-chip device. According to some embodiments, the depths D1 and D2 may each be less than one-half of an inch. For instance, a distance from an upper surface of a CMUT (or array of CMUTs) to a focus point of either or both of the beams 111 and 112 may be less than one-half of an inch.

[0022] In some embodiments, to produce different ultrasound frequencies, a CMUT may be operated at different bias voltages to produce different resonant frequencies. As a non limiting example, a CMUT may be operated in two frequency bands to provide for two separate modes of imaging by sensing different depths as discussed above. The CMUT may be operated at a DC bias voltage of 95% of its collapse voltage for low frequency (2-5 MHz) imaging beneath the epidermis; and at a DC bias voltage above collapse voltage for high frequency (12-17 MHz) imaging of the fingertip. The listed DC bias voltage operating points are non-limiting, as other bias voltages may be applied to achieve different operating frequencies.

[0023] Aspects of the present application provide an ultrasound fingerprint sensor that includes at least two electrodes configured to receive electrical signals of different frequencies resulting in generation of ultrasound signals of different frequencies, for example through control of a membrane of a capacitive ultrasonic transducer. A multi-electrode scheme may provide for improved transmission and reception efficiency both in and out of collapse for multiple frequency ranges. As a non-limiting example, FIG. 2A depicts a top view of a dual ring electrode design of a capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer configured to sense a subject’s skin using two different frequencies. FIG. 2A depicts an electrode configuration opposite the membrane of a CMUT of an illustrative ultrasound fingerprint sensor 200. The illustrated electrodes may represent bottom electrodes of a capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer. The sensor 200 may comprise one or more additional electrodes on the membrane itself, but those are not shown in this figure. Sensor 200 includes electrodes 201 and 202, which are concentrically aligned electrodes configured to produce ultrasound of different frequencies through suitable control of a membrane of the transducer. For instance, electrode 201 may be configured to produce comparatively lower frequency ultrasound (e.g., between 1 MHz and 10 MHz), whereas electrode 202 may be configured to produce comparatively higher frequency ultrasound (e.g., between 10 MHz and 40 MHz). Regions 205 and 209 comprise dielectrics

(e.g., oxides) and region 208 comprises a by-pass bonding area for bonding a lower substrate comprising the illustrated electrodes with a membrane, in the non-limiting example of FIG. 2A.

[0024] As further non-limiting examples, FIGs. 2B-2D depict additional multi-electrode designs 210, 220 and 230, with elements provided the same labels as in the example

configuration of FIG. 2A. These examples illustrate further shapes of suitable multi-electrode designs, including concentric squares in FIG. 2B, a grid electrode containing secondary electrodes in the grid spaces in FIG. 2C, and side-by-side rectangular electrodes in FIG. 2D. Other shapes of electrodes may alternatively be implemented, as the various aspects of the application relating to a multi-electrode structure for generating multiple ultrasound frequencies are not limited to the particular shapes of the electrodes.

[0025] FIG. 2E depicts a non-limiting example of a cross-sectional view of the illustrative dual-ring electrode design of FIG. 2A, and includes a cavity 210 of width W and depth D in addition to a silicon membrane 220 of thickness T. Electrodes 201 and 202 are shown in cross section and, since they have a ring shape, appear as two distinct regions in the cross-section shown in FIG. 2E. The electrodes 201 and 202 (e.g., Ti electrodes) are each coupled to respective driving components 207 (e.g., AlCu) and 213 (e.g., Cu) through vias 212 (e.g., tungsten vias). A cavity 210 is arranged above the electrodes 201 and 202, with a layer of atomic-layer-deposited (ALD) alumina 214 being arranged between the electrodes and the cavity. A silicon membrane 220 is arranged above the cavity and, in some embodiments, may be configured to operate as a secondary electrode to electrodes 201 and 202. That is, the silicon membrane 220 may represent an opposite electrode to the capacitive transducer, opposite to electrodes 201 and 202. A MEMS passivation layer 204 (e.g., SiO/SiN) is deposited over the silicon membrane 220. Oxide layers 205 are arranged between the above-described layers as shown in FIG. 2E. During operation, a DC bias voltage may be applied to the conductive silicon membrane 220.

[0026] It should be appreciated that, although the examples of FIGs. 2A-2D depict multiple electrodes arranged within the same plane of a fingerprint sensor, in some cases lower electrodes of a fingerprint sensor may be arranged in different planes. That is, the electrodes may be arranged in at least three planes, with the upper electrode being arranged in one plane and the lower electrodes being arranged in at least two different planes. For instance, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may comprise a first lower electrode configured to receive a first frequency electrical signal resulting in generation of comparatively lower frequency ultrasound, and a second lower electrode arranged beneath the first electrode may be configured receive a second frequency electrical signal resulting in generation of comparatively higher frequency ultrasound. Ultrasound produced by the second electrode may pass through the first electrode when transmitted from the second electrode to the finger and/or when reflected from the finger, and ultrasound produce by both the first and second electrodes may pass through an upper electrode of the device.

[0027] A non-limiting example of operating parameters for generating ultrasound signals of different frequencies is now provided. For a CMUT having a collapse voltage of

approximately 52 V, an ultrasound signal of a first frequency may be generated having a 600 kPa peak-to-peak average transmit pressure over the CMUT surface for a 2 cycle, 3 MHz, 50V peak-to-peak drive pulse using a 50 V DC bias. An ultrasound signal of a second frequency may be generated by applying a 60 V DC bias, thus operating in the collapse regime, with the resonance frequency of the membrane now approximately 15 MHz. A 1 MPa peak-to-peak average pressure at the CMUT surface may be achieved with a 30V peak-to-peak drive pulse under such circumstances. A capacitive ultrasonic transducer with a dual-electrode design of the types described above may allow for achieving the operating scenarios just described, by using one electrode for the application of one of the drive pulses (e.g., the 50 V peak-to-peak drive pulse) and the other electrode for application of the other drive pulse (e.g., the 30 V peak-to-peak drive pulse). Other examples are possible.

[0028] According to some aspects of the present application, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may comprise an array of transducers, including but not limited to any number and combination of the transducers shown in FIGs. 2A-2D. FIG. 3 depicts an example of such an array, according to some embodiments.

[0029] FIG. 3 shows an illustrative example of how an individual transducer element 304 in a transducer array 300 may be arranged with respect to complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry 312 (including a transmit (TX) control circuit 306 and/or an receive (RX) control circuit 308) for that transducer element 304. As shown, in some embodiments, each transducer element 304 may have associated with it a corresponding TX control circuit 306 and a corresponding RX control circuit 308. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, each of the transducer elements 304 is disposed directly above its corresponding TX control circuit 306 and/or RX control circuit 308 so as to, for example, facilitate

interconnections, minimize cross-talk between components, minimize parasitic capacitances, and save on semiconductor chip space, among other possible benefits. Details as to how transducer cells (e.g., transducer cells 200 or 210 described above), transducer elements 304, and transducer array(s) 300 may be integrated with or otherwise formed above CMOS circuitry in this manner are provided in U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 14/208,351, entitled

COMPLEMENTARY METAL OXIDE SEMICONDUCTOR (CMOS) ULTRASONIC

TRANSDUCERS AND METHODS FOR FORMING THE SAME, bearing attorney docket No. B1348.70007US01, filed on March 13, 2014 and now issued as U.S. Pat. 9,242,275, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Other examples may be found in U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 14/635,197, entitled“MICROFABRICATED ULTRASONIC

TRANSDUCERS AND RELATED APPARATUS AND METHODS,” bearing attorney docket No. B1348.70013US01, filed March 2, 2015 and now issued as U.S. Pat. 9,067,779, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

[0030] It should be appreciated, however, that in other embodiments one or more of the transducer elements 304 may be otherwise arranged with respect to one or more TX control circuits 306 and/or one or more RX control circuits 308, so as to achieve other benefits or advantages. In certain implementations, for example, the functionality of the TX control circuit 306 and/or the RX control circuit 308 may be performed by circuitry located on a different chip or even a different device than that on which the ultrasonic transducers are formed.

[0031] According to some aspects of the present application, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may include at least one micromachined ultrasonic transducer with any suitable electrode dimensions, membrane thickness, cavity depth and width, and DC and AC operating points. Non-limiting examples are now provided.

[0032] In some embodiments, the in-plane diameter of an electrode structure such as those illustrative structures shown in FIGs. 2A-2E is greater than or equal to 10 pm, 15 pm, 20 pm, 25 pm or 30 pm. In some embodiments, the diameter is less than or equal to 150 pm, 100 pm, 75 pm, or 50 pm. Any suitable combinations of the above-referenced ranges are also possible (e.g., diameter of greater or equal to 25 pm and less than or equal to 100 pm, etc.).

[0033] In some embodiments, the thickness T of a silicon membrane such as membrane 220 shown in FIG. 2E is greater than or equal to 1 pm, 2 pm, 3pm, 4 pm or 5 pm. In some embodiments, the thickness is less than or equal to 50 pm, 10 pm, 8 pm, 5 pm, or 3 pm. Any suitable combinations of the above-referenced ranges are also possible (e.g., a membrane thickness of greater or equal to 1 pm and less than or equal to 5 pm, etc.).

[0034] In some embodiments, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may be configured to supply a DC bias voltage to the silicon membrane (e.g., membrane 220 shown in FIG. 2E) of greater than or equal to 5V, 10V, 15V or 20V. In some embodiments, the DC bias voltage is less than or equal to 100V, 75V, 50V or 25V. Any suitable combinations of the above-referenced ranges are also possible (e.g., a DC bias voltage of greater or equal to 10V and less than or equal to 50V, etc.).

[0035] In some embodiments, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may be configured to supply an AC voltage to electrodes of the sensor (e.g., electrodes 201 and/or 202 shown in FIGs. 2A-2E) with a magnitude of greater than or equal to 5V, 10V, 15V or 20V. In some

embodiments, the magnitude of the AC voltage is less than or equal to 50V, 25V, 10V or 5V. Any suitable combinations of the above-referenced ranges are also possible (e.g., an AC voltage applied to an electrode with a magnitude of greater or equal to 5V and less than or equal to 25V, etc.). It will be appreciated that an AC voltage applied to electrodes of the sensor may be of a positive or negative voltage.

[0036] In some embodiments, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may be configured to produce ultrasound with a frequency of greater than or equal to 1 MHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 20 MHz or 30 MHz. In some embodiments, the ultrasound fingerprint sensor may be configured to produce ultrasound with a frequency of less than or equal to 50 MHz, 40 MHz, 30 MHz, 20 MHz, 15 MHz or 10 MHz. Any suitable combinations of the above-referenced ranges are also possible (e.g., a frequency of greater or equal to 5 MHz and less than or equal to 15 MHz, etc.).

[0037] Cavities of the ultrasound fingerprint sensor (e.g., cavity 210) may have a depth D designed for desired operation of the ultrasonic transducers ultimately formed, for example in terms of frequency of operation. In some embodiments, the depth D may be approximately 2 microns, approximately 0.5 microns, approximately 0.25 microns, between approximately 0.05 microns and approximately 10 microns, between approximately 0.1 microns and approximately 5 microns, between approximately 0.5 microns and approximately 1.5 microns, any depth or range of depths in between, or any other suitable depth.

[0038] A cavity 210 may have a width W, also illustrated in FIG. 2E. In some embodiments, a cavity 210 may have a widths W of approximately 50 microns, between approximately 5 microns and approximately 500 microns, between approximately 20 microns and approximately 100 microns, any width or range of widths in between, or any other suitable widths.

[0039] In some embodiments, a cavity has a width W of approximately 50 microns and a depth D of approximately 0.2 microns. In some embodiments, a ratio of the width W to the depth D may be greater than 50, greater than 100, greater than 150, between 30 and 300, or any other suitable ratio. The ratio may be selected to provide desired operation of the transducer membrane, for example operation at a target frequency.

[0040] As a non-limiting example, an ultrasound fingerprint sensor may comprise dual ring electrode structures with respective diameters of 25 pm and 100 pm, a membrane of thickness 10 pm arranged above the electrode structures, may be configured to supply a 25V DC bias voltage to the membrane and a 15V AC voltage to the electrode structures, may produce ultrasound of 5MHz and 15MHz from the two electrode structures, and include a cavity with a depth of 1 pm and a width of 50 pm.

[0041] An ultrasound fingerprint sensor as described herein may be disposed in various devices including but not limited to mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones, or biometric access equipment. FIG. 4A depicts an example of a mobile telephone 400 comprising an ultrasound fingerprint sensor 401, according to some embodiments. The sensor 401 is depicted with dashed lines to indicate that the sensor is arranged beneath the exterior surface of the telephone 400 and is not visible through said surface. While the sensor 401 is depicted in FIG. 4A as being arranged beneath a particular region of screen 403 of mobile telephone 400, it will be appreciated that the sensor 401 may be arranged beneath the screen in any suitable position and with any suitable size, and in some cases may be included beneath some or part of the button 402 of the telephone in addition to or alternatively from the screen 403. In some embodiments, the sensor 401 may be arranged under the back face of the mobile telephone 400.

[0042] FIG. 4B depicts a cross-sectional view of the mobile telephone of FIG. 4A. In the example of FIG. 4B, the mobile telephone 400 comprises a circuit board 440 electrically coupled to, and configured to control, a display layer 420 and an ultrasound transducer array 430. The display layer is configured to produce light through a surface 410 which may for instance comprise glass or transparent plastic, and may for instance comprise an LED display or an OLED display. The ultrasound transducer array 430 is configured to sense a subject’s finger by emitting ultrasound of multiple frequencies 451 and 452, to thereby sense different depths of the finger, as described above in connection with FIG. 1. Ultrasound transducer array 430 may comprise any number of CMUTs arranged in a layer, such as an array comprising a number of instances of the CMUT shown in FIG. 2E.

[0043] As described previously, aspects of the present application provide an ultrasound fingerprint sensor configured to image a subject’s fingerprint using two different ultrasound frequencies. FIGs. 5A-5B depict illustrative images of the same finger scanned at two different depths, according to some embodiments. As discussed above, ultrasound of different frequencies produced by a CMUT may penetrate a finger to different degrees. FIG. 5A is an example of an image 510 of a finger that may be produced by scanning the finger with a comparatively high frequency (e.g., between 10 MHz and 40 MHz) to resolve surface features of the finger (e.g., the illustrated ridges of a fingerprint). FIG. 5B is an example of an image 520 of the same finger as shown in FIG. 5A that may be produced by scanning the finger with a comparatively low frequency (e.g., between 1 MHz and 10 MHz) to resolve features within the dermal and/or subcutaneous layers of the finger.

[0044] FIG. 6 is a flowchart of a method of detecting a fingerprint, according to some embodiments. In method 600, first and second ultrasound signals are emitted in acts 610 and 615, which may be performed sequentially, or at least partially at the same time. The first and second ultrasound signals emitted in acts 610 and 615 are both incident upon a finger of a user, as discussed further above. The first and second ultrasound signals may exhibit different frequency spectra such that different depths of the finger are probed by the two ultrasound signals. As discussed above, in some cases the use of different frequency spectra may mean that the peak frequency of each spectrum is different, although other differences may be exhibited between the frequency spectra in addition, or as an alternative to the different peak frequencies.

[0045] In acts 620 and 625, reflected signals produced through emission of the first and second ultrasound signals in acts 610 and 615 are received and images of the finger generated according to the received signals. It will be appreciated that acts 620 and/or 625 may be performed during the same time as at least part of acts 610 and/or 615. For instance, the first image of the finger may be produced whilst the first ultrasound continues to be emitted and/or whilst the second ultrasound is being emitted. Irrespective of the temporal ordering of acts 610, 615, 620 and 625, in act 630 a fingerprint is detected based on the produced first and second images. According to some embodiments, act 630 may comprise a comparison of the first and/or second images with previously obtained images of a finger to determine whether the finger currently being scanned matches the previously scanned finger. According to some embodiments, act 630 may comprise a comparison between the first and second images. Such a

comparison may have numerous benefits such as, but not limited to, preventing an imposter from spoofing a user’s fingerprints.

[0046] Various aspects of the present disclosure may be used alone, in combination, or in a variety of arrangements not specifically described in the embodiments described in the foregoing and is therefore not limited in its application to the details and arrangement of components set forth in the foregoing description or illustrated in the drawings. For example, aspects described in one embodiment may be combined in any manner with aspects described in other embodiments.

[0047] The indefinite articles“a” and“an,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, should be understood to mean“at least one.”

[0048] The phrase“and/or,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, should be understood to mean“either or both” of the elements so conjoined, i.e., elements that are conjunctively present in some cases and disjunctively present in other cases. Multiple elements listed with“and/or” should be construed in the same fashion, i.e.,“one or more” of the elements so conjoined. Other elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified by the“and/or” clause, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified.

[0049] As used herein in the specification and in the claims, the phrase“at least one,” in reference to a list of one or more elements, should be understood to mean at least one element selected from any one or more of the elements in the list of elements, but not necessarily including at least one of each and every element specifically listed within the list of elements and not excluding any combinations of elements in the list of elements. This definition also allows that elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified within the list of elements to which the phrase“at least one” refers, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified.

[0050] Use of ordinal terms such as“first,”“second,”“third,” etc., in the claims to modify a claim element does not by itself connote any priority, precedence, or order of one claim element over another or the temporal order in which acts of a method are performed, but are used merely as labels to distinguish one claim element having a certain name from another element having a same name (but for use of the ordinal term) to distinguish the claim elements.

[0051] As used herein, reference to a numerical value being between two endpoints should be understood to encompass the situation in which the numerical value can assume either of the endpoints. For example, stating that a characteristic has a value between A and B, or between approximately A and B, should be understood to mean that the indicated range is inclusive of the endpoints A and B unless otherwise noted.

[0052] The terms“approximately” and“about” may be used to mean within ±20% of a target value in some embodiments, within ±10% of a target value in some embodiments, within ±5% of a target value in some embodiments, and yet within ±2% of a target value in some embodiments. The terms“approximately” and“about” may include the target value.

[0053] Also, the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of“including,”“comprising,” or “having,”“containing,”“involving,” and variations thereof herein, is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items.

[0054] Having described above several aspects of at least one embodiment, it is to be appreciated various alterations, modifications, and improvements will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Such alterations, modifications, and improvements are intended to be object of this disclosure. Accordingly, the foregoing description and drawings are by way of example only.