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This paper presents an optical actuation scheme for MEMS devices based on the well-established fact that light possesses momentum, and hence, imparts a force equal to 2 W/c when reflected by a surface. Here, W is the total power of the reflected light, and c is the speed of light. Radiation pressure, as it is known, is nearly insignificant for most macroscale applications, but it can be quite significant for MEMS devices. In addition, light actuation offers a new paradigm. First, intersecting light beams do not interfere, in contrast to electrical conductors, which short when they come into contact. Second, light can operate in high temperature and high radiation environments far outside the capability of solid state electronic components. This actuation method is demonstrated, both in air and in vacuum, by switching the state of a bistable MEMS device. The associated heat transfer model is also presented.
Date of Publication: Oct 2002