Publications / SAND Report

Final report : compliant thermo-mechanical MEMS actuators, LDRD #52553

Plass, R.A.; Headley, Thomas J.; Walraven, J.A.

Thermal actuators have proven to be a robust actuation method in surface-micromachined MEMS processes. Their higher output force and lower input voltage make them an attractive alternative to more traditional electrostatic actuation methods. A predictive model of thermal actuator behavior has been developed and validated that can be used as a design tool to customize the performance of an actuator to a specific application. This tool has also been used to better understand thermal actuator reliability by comparing the maximum actuator temperature to the measured lifetime. Modeling thermal actuator behavior requires the use of two sequentially coupled models, the first to predict the temperature increase of the actuator due to the applied current and the second to model the mechanical response of the structure due to the increase in temperature. These two models have been developed using Matlab for the thermal response and ANSYS for the structural response. Both models have been shown to agree well with experimental data. In a parallel effort, the reliability and failure mechanisms of thermal actuators have been studied. Their response to electrical overstress and electrostatic discharge has been measured and a study has been performed to determine actuator lifetime at various temperatures and operating conditions. The results from this study have been used to determine a maximum reliable operating temperature that, when used in conjunction with the predictive model, enables us to design in reliability and customize the performance of an actuator at the design stage.