PRISM at Discovery Park


Prediction Goals

The focus of PRISM’s research is the contacting capacitative radio-frequency MEMS switch shown below. A thin nickel membrane, typically 300-500 m in length, is suspended 3-5 m above a contact pad. A voltage applied to the contact pad which imposes an electrostatic force on the membrane, causing it to deform and make contact with the pad. This increases the capacitance of the device, causing the switch to be turned ON. Alternatively, removal of the voltage causes the metal membrane to return to its undeformed position, which is considered the OFF position. Over time, the trapping of charges in the dielectric covering the contact, and the loss of stiffness due to creep-related phenomena cause the switch to fail.


PRISM’s goal is to predict the failure of the RF-MEMS device due to two mechanisms: (i) electrostatically induced stiction resulting from dielectric charging, and (ii) failure due to viscoelasticity and creep. Our specific prediction goals are described below.
Goal 1: To predict, with quantified uncertainty, the number of cycles to electrostatically-induced stiction failure in the RF-MEMS switch. Our objective is to make predictions under accelerated testing scenarios, and to predict mean lifetime to within an order of magnitude of the measured mean.


Goal 2: To predict, with quantified uncertainty, the gap versus time behavior at fixed voltage of the RF-MEMS switch. Our objective is to predict the mean values of the critical slopes in the time evolution of the gap to within 20% of experimentally-measured mean values.


To achieve these prediction goals, a 5-year simulation program has been put in place. Critical simulation milestones for each year are shown below.



PRISM leverages advances in nanoscale science and engineering to create innovative nanotechnologies addressing societal challenges and opportunities in computing, communications, the environment, security, energy independence, and health.

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Matt Potrawski
Managing Director, PRISM Center
Purdue University
Birck Nanotechnology Center
1205 W. State St., Suite 2027
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2088