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Electrothermal modeling, fabrication and analysis of low-power consumption thermal actuator with buckling arm


This paper reports on a novel thermal actuator with sub-micron metallic structures and a buckling arm to operate with low voltages and to generate very large deflections, respectively. A lumped electrothermal model and analysis were also developed to validate the mechanical design and easily predict the temperature distribution along arms of the sub-micron actuator. The actuator was fabricated via the combination of electron beam lithography to form actuator arms with a minimum feature size of 200 nm and lift-off process to deposit a high aspect ratio nickel structure. Reproducible displacements of up to 1.9 μm at the tip were observed up to 250 mV under confocal microscope. The experimentally measured deflection values and theoretically calculated temperature distribution by the developed model were compared with finite element analysis results and they were in good agreement. This study shows a promising approach to develop more sophisticated nano actuators required larger deflections for manipulation of sub-micron scale objects with low-power consumption.

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This work was partially supported by the KAUST Global Collaborative Research (GCR) grant. H. So sincerely acknowledges Professor Liwei Lin for his valuable discussions and Introduction to MEMS course, where the main idea came from, in fall 2011 at UC Berkeley. The authors would also like to thank Zi Jing Wong for his help with EBL and the Marvell Nanolab at UC Berkeley where all devices were fabricated and characterized.

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Correspondence to Hongyun So.

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So, H., Pisano, A.P. Electrothermal modeling, fabrication and analysis of low-power consumption thermal actuator with buckling arm. Microsyst Technol 21, 195–202 (2015).

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  • Electron Beam Lithography
  • Nitride Film
  • MIBK
  • Joint Point
  • Thermal Actuator