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Investigation of the Deposition and Integration of Hard Coatings for Moving MEMS Applications

  • P.M. Adams (a1), R.E. Robertson (a1), R.C. Cole (a1), D. Hinkley (a1) and G. Radhakrishnan (a2)...

Abstract

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have been identified as a key technology for small-scale satellites, integrated sensors, and intelligent control systems. Using methods developed for highly integrated electronics, mechanical components are co-fabricated on planar wafers and subsequently etched free for mechanical movements in three dimensions. A major design limitation for these systems is their inability to withstand prolonged sliding surface contact. The fundamental problem is that the surface properties of silicon and poly-silicon, two of the most widely used materials for MEMS, are highly unsuitable for moving MEMS devices, resulting in high wear during operation. This work explores the feasibility and benefits of depositing thin, wear-resistant, low-friction coatings on silicon or poly-silicon. To achieve this goal, three-dimensional test silicon microstructures have been fabricated. Wear-resistant titanium carbide (TiC) coatings are deposited on these test structures using a novel non-line-of-sight pulsed laser deposition (PLD) process. In parallel, this paper addresses the integration of the TiC coating directly into the MEMS fabrication processes and its compatibility with standard silicon processing.

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