20Congreso Nacional 
Sociedad Mexicana de Ciencia de Superficies y Vacío A.C.

Polymer-based Electrostatic Actuators

Gary E. McGuire
Research Triangle Park, NC

Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has been a topic of investigation for more than 20 years. However, MEMS is one of the fastest growing areas of research today. MEMS devices rely on a variety of forces such as eletrostatic and magnetic to produce mechanical motion. They are fabricated using a broad range of materials. Surface micro-machining of silicon is the dominant means of fabricating MEMS devices. Si-based MEMS devices offer the advantage of easily integrating the MEMS device with the electronic drive circuitry.  However Si-based MEMS devices are not readily separated from the substrate in order to integrate them into other systems.

Polymer-based MEMS devices are light weight electrostatic actuators that may be released from the substrate for system integration. Two electrostatic MEMS devices have been under investigation and will be described. The first is the integrated force array (IFA). This is an x-y array of capacitor cells fabricated by coating the sidewall of a micro-machined polymer film. Cells fabricated using polyimide films have been operated at up a trillion cycles. The maximum displacement has been up to 700 micrometers. The light-weight of the IFA makes it attractive as an actuator in applications such as drone airplanes.

The second polymer-based electrostatic actuator is an optical shutter. It is based on a metallized polymer film attached at one end. The inherent stress between the metal coating and the polymer film causes the shutter to role up. The electrostatic force between the metal coating and a fixed electrode in the substrate causes the shutter to un-role. By using a transparent substrate and a transparent electrode an optical shutter is produced. An array of these shutters is the basis for a flat panel display.

The fabrication of these electrostatic MEMS devices will be described. Their performance will be discussed and possible applications reviewed.

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