Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical and General Engineering


Richard Savage


There are a number of applications, from hearing aids to microfluidic pumps, which utilize micro-scale actuating diaphragms. These MEMS (micro-electromechanical system) devices can be actuated by electrostatic forces, which utilize an induced electric field to pull two charged plates towards one another. Such devices were fabricated and electrostatic actuation of the diaphragms was performed to analyze its viability as a micro-speaker. The long-term performance of such products requires adequate diaphragm deflection to create audible pressure waves with relatively low maximum stresses to ensure a high cycle fatigue life. With these requirements, initial calculations and FEA (finite element analysis) were performed to establish the optimal square diaphragm side length combined with an attainable gap between electrodes to achieve an audible response. Optical and acoustic testing was then performed on 4, 5, and 7 mm side length square diaphragms with 10 μm thickness and a 70 μm electrode gap. For the 5 mm device and a 300 V applied potential, deflection was calculated to be 4.12 μm theoretically and 3.82 μm using FEA, although deflections based on optical test data averaged 30.53μm under DC conditions. The DAQ used for optical testing was extremely limiting due to its fastest sampling interval of 89 milliseconds, so this testing was performed at 2 and 5 Hz. Although the 7 mm device generated audible noise at 300 V and 2 kHz when the observer was within approximately 6 inches of the device, acoustic testing with a microphone placed 1 inch from the device did not yield any definitive results.