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Electrostatically actuated metal-droplet microswitches integrated on CMOS chip

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3 Author(s)
Wenjiang Shen ; Mech. & Aerosp. Eng. Dept., California Univ., Los Angeles, CA, USA ; R. T. Edwards ; Chang-Jin Kim

The dominance of surface tension over inertia in microscale and favorable scale effect for electrostatic actuation allow electrostatically driven metal-droplet systems practical. Because of such potential advantages as low contact resistance, naturally bistable operation, and high switch density, the liquid-metal droplet switch is an excellent candidate for reconfigurable circuit interconnections. Following earlier droplet microswitch examples and related studies of metal-droplet behavior, we report the first functioning droplet switch directly integrated on top of a functional CMOS circuit. While the surface tension dominance makes the droplet switches practical as a mechanical system and also brings bistability, it also requires a high electric field to move the droplet. We implement the concept of physical surface modification to lower the driving voltage to a value that a commercial CMOS process can provide. Unlike previous droplet switches, the reported device is planar-processed to allow the integration with the underlying CMOS circuits. The integrated switch is made functional by such provisions as self-limiting actuation and by optimizing the electrostatic force in the planar configuration and avoiding liquid-metal "flooding" into surface patterns. A fabrication process for low driving voltage and high compatibility is developed to integrate the droplet switch on the custom-developed CMOS chip. A packaging method adapted from well-established microelectronic packaging isolates the active switch space from the surrounding environment. Low driving voltage (as low as 15 V) and millisecond switching speed are achieved by the current on-chip device. While the current device uses ~150 mum droplets for demonstration, additional theoretical and experimental results indicate that further miniaturization would lead to smaller devices and lower operation voltage

Published in:

Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems  (Volume:15 ,  Issue: 4 )