Purdue University Graduate School
Kalafut_Dissertation_2021.pdf (27.33 MB)

Multistability in microbeams: Numerical simulations and experiments in capacitive switches and resonant atomic force microscopy systems

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posted on 2021-07-23, 15:49 authored by Devin M KalafutDevin M Kalafut
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) depend on mechanical deformation to sense their environment, enhance electrical circuitry, or store data. Nonlinear forces arising from multiphysics phenomena at the micro- and nanoscale -- van der Waals forces, electrostatic fields, dielectric charging, capillary forces, surface roughness, asperity interactions -- lead to challenging problems for analysis, simulation, and measurement of the deforming device elements. Herein, a foundation for the study of mechanical deformation is provided through computational and experimental studies of MEMS microcantilever capacitive switches. Numerical techniques are built to capture deformation equilibria expediently. A compact analytical model is developed from principle multiphysics governing operation. Experimental measurements support the phenomena predicted by the analytical model, and finite element method (FEM) simulations confirm device-specific performance. Altogether, the static multistability and quasistatic performance of the electrostatically-actuated switches are confirmed across analysis, simulation, and experimentation.

The nonlinear multiphysics forces present in the devices are critical to the switching behavior exploited for novel applications, but are also a culprit in a common failure mode when the attractive forces overcome the restorative and repulsive forces to result in two elements sticking together. Quasistatic operation is functional for switching between multistable states during normal conditions, but is insufficient under such stiction-failure. Exploration of dynamic methods for stiction release is often the only option for many system configurations. But how and when is release achieved? To investigate the fundamental mechanism of dynamic release, an atomic force microscopy (AFM) system -- a microcantilever with a motion-controlled base and a single-asperity probe tip, measured and actuated via lasers -- is configured to replicate elements of a stiction-failed MEMS device. Through this surrogate, observable dynamic signatures of microcantilever deflection indicate the onset of detachment between the probe and a sample.


Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

Directorate for Education & Human Resources

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Anil Bajaj

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Arvind Raman

Additional Committee Member 2

Marisol Koslowski

Additional Committee Member 3

Aaron Yip