Materials and Reliability Issues in MEMS and Microsystems
The recent evolution in microelectronics of combining electrical and mechanical functions has brought about an exciting new field — microelectromechanical system (MEMS) [1, 2]. Miniature structures developed by new fabrication techniques on semiconductor wafers make possible new devices that have the potential to revolutionize instrumentation and control systems. At the University of Wisconsin (Madison), an air driven microelectromechanical generator has been developed by Henry Guckel. Using parts that are a fraction of the thickness of human hair, a generator was designed giving an output of five volts and weighing less than five grams. In separate developments, a team at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) has built atomic-force microscopes that enable insights into surface science and produce miniature probes for use in advanced prostheses. At the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center at the University of California, researchers have built a microgripper capable of handling micron-sized structures. The heart of the gripper is a novel microstructure that consists of interdigitated fingers, or cantilevers, which are activated electrostatically to move the gripper arms. Such a device has potential applications in biomedicine and micro-telerobotics. In the sections that follow, the research issues related to materials and microsystems are discussed. The research problems that must be solved are presented as well as recommendations for research support by industry and federal agencies.
KeywordsSilicon Nitride Microelectromechanical System Sacrificial Layer Reliability Issue Surface Micromachining
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