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This paper presents a generalized model that describes the behavior of micromachined electrostatic actuators in conducting liquids and provides a guideline for designing electrostatic actuators to operate in aqueous electrolytes such as biological media. The model predicts static actuator displacement as a function of device parameters and applied frequency and potential for the typical case of negligible double-layer impedance and dynamic response. Model results are compared to the experimentally measured displacement of electrostatic comb-drive and parallel-plate actuators and exhibit good qualitative agreement with experimental observations. The model is applied to show that the pull-in instability of a parallel-plate actuator is frequency dependent near the critical frequency for actuation and can be eliminated for any actuator design by tuning the applied frequency. In addition, the model is applied to establish a frequency-dependent theoretical upper bound on the voltage that can be applied across passivated electrodes without electrolysis.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2009