Special Section on Reliability, Packaging, Testing, and Characterization of MEMS and MOEMS

Electrical breakdown at low pressure for planar microelectromechanical systems with 10-to500-μm gaps

[+] Author Affiliations
Patrick Carazzetti

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory, Rue Jaquet Droz 1, CP 526, CH-2002 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Herbert R. Shea

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory, Rue Jaquet Droz 1, CP 526, CH-2002 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

J. Micro/Nanolith. MEMS MOEMS. 8(3), 031305 (July 02, 2009). doi:10.1117/1.3152368
History: Received October 14, 2008; Revised February 17, 2009; Accepted February 23, 2009; Published July 02, 2009
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An experimental study of the dc breakdown voltage for planar MEMS interdigitated aluminum electrodes with gaps ranging from 10to500μm is presented. Unlike most research on the breakdown in MEMS electrodes that was performed at atmospheric pressure, this work focuses on the effect of gas pressure and gas type on breakdown voltage, because this is central for chip-scale plasma generation and for reliable operation in aerospace applications. The breakdown voltage is measured in helium, argon, and nitrogen atmospheres for pressures between 102to8.104Pa(1to800mbar). For higher values of the pressure P, or of the gap d (i.e., for high values of the Paschen reduced variable Pred=Pd), classical Paschen scaling is observed. For lower values of Pred, however, significant deviations are seen: the Vbd versus. Pd curve shows an extended flat region rather than a narrow dip. These differences cannot be attributed to field emission, but are due to the many length scales effectively present in a planar geometry (on-chip and even off-chip) that leads to the superposition of several Paschen curves. Guidelines are formulated for low-pressure operation of MEMS to avoid or encourage breakdown.

© 2009 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers

Citation

Patrick Carazzetti and Herbert R. Shea
"Electrical breakdown at low pressure for planar microelectromechanical systems with 10-to500-μm gaps", J. Micro/Nanolith. MEMS MOEMS. 8(3), 031305 (July 02, 2009). ; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/1.3152368


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