Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Engineering - Materials Engineering


Materials Engineering


Richard Savage


Understanding the mechanisms that control the mechanical behavior of microscale actuators is necessary to design an actuator that responds to an applied actuation force with the desired behavior. Micro actuators which employ a diaphragm supported by torsional hinges which deform during actuation are used in many applications where device stability and reliability are critical. The material response to the stress developed within the hinge during actuation controls how the actuator will respond to the actuating force. A fully recoverable non-linear viscoelastic response has been observed in electrostatically driven micro actuators employing torsional hinges of silicon covered with thin metal films. The viscoelastic response occurs over a time period of 50 minutes at an operating temperature of 35°C. This viscoelastic phenomenon is similar to that reported in articles addressing anelastic behavior associated with viscous grain boundary slippage and dislocation bowing. In order to investigate this viscoelastic response as a function of metal film composition and thickness, bi-layer torsional hinge actuators consisting of Si with a deposited metal layer were designed to exhibit similar stress levels as the electrostatically driven micro actuators. The test devices were fabricated using common semiconductor fabrication techniques. The actuators were micromachined by deep etching 100mm diameter, 425µm thick, double side polished, single crystal (100) wafers to create a 4.5µm thick device layer. Subsequent etching of the device layer released the fixed-fixed torsional hinge test actuators. Physical vapor depositions of Au, Al and Al-Ti in two different thicknesses (100nm, and 150nm) were deposited in order to investigate the impact of metal film thickness and composition on the viscoelastic response. Grain sizes of the deposited films were estimated using backscattered electron images. Rotational actuation of the test actuators was achieved by using a modified Ambios XP-1 surface profiler that applies a constant force of 0.28mN while measuring the displacement of the actuator with respect to time. The viscoelastic response was observed in the test devices with Au and Al thin films indicating that this phenomenon is attributable to the stresses induced on the torsional hinge. Results indicate that the viscoelastic response was not observed in AlTi thin films consisting of 0.3at% titanium. Two theoretical models are presented that discuss the mechanism associated with the viscoelastic response as well as a method for inhibiting these mechanisms by the addition of an alloying element to form a second phase precipitate.