In-situ vapor-phase lubrication of sidewall MicroElectroMechanical System (MEMS) devices is investigated with 1-pentanol vapor. The 1-pentanol vapor successfully maintains lubricating properties between silicon contacts of MEMS devices. This is attributed to the ability of alcohol to adsorb on the silicon surface and sustain a lubricating layer, which prevents wear of the MEMS surfaces and minimizes friction. In the presence of these vapors, MEMS devices with sliding contacts operated without failure for up to a factor of 1.7 × 10 4 longer than in dry N 2 gas alone, representing a dramatic improvement in operating life. Adhesion and friction were also investigated as a function of alcohol vapor pressure. The adhesive force between microfabricated MEMS sidewall surfaces increases from 30 to 60 nN as the alcohol vapor pressure is increased from 0 to 20% of saturation, and then only slightly increases to 75 nN at 95% of saturation vapor pressure. This increase in force is well within the capabilities of even the lowest force on-chip actuators, such as electrostatic comb drives which can typically generate a few μN of force. The static friction force was found to be independent of alcohol vapor pressure within the uncertainties in the measurement.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering
- Surfaces and Interfaces
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films