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The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) switch has become an essential element in many electronic systems and would find even greater usage in integrated circuits and other electrical applications, except for its fundamentally electromechanical nature and thus excessively limited operating lifetime. The limitations of wear, stiction, and thermal response as well as electrical resistance increases and other mechanical related properties are clearly present in these small switches precluding use of such elements except in well defined and probably non-critical switching applications.
To address these issues, Air Force researchers have developed a lubricant for MEMS devices. In such a device, two contacts are separated by an array of metallic nanoparticles surrounded by a liquid containing ionized non-metallic organic material particles.
More specifically, the lubricant can be described as a monolithic hybrid nanoparticle material comprised of an inorganic nano-sized metallic core and an organic low viscosity corona. Advantages of such nanoparticle lubricants as compared to ordinary nanoparticles include (1) less agglomeration; (2) better processing; (3) controlled particle interactions; and (4) production of a solvent-free liquid. An ionic liquid may be used as a corona offering advantages such as (1) high fluidity; (2) low-melting temperature; (3) high-boiling temperature; (4) thermal stability; and (5) low-vapor pressure. As a contact lubricant these materials appear to provide high-conductivity of metallic nanoparticles and enablement for lubricant reflow to damaged areas.
- Increased operating life of the MEMS device
- Enhanced electrical conduction characteristics
- Selectable viscosity
- Better thermal stability of the mems device
- US patent 7,768,366 available for license