Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) radio frequency (RF) switches hold great promise in a myriad of commercial, aerospace, and military applications. MEMS switches offer important advantages over current electromechanical and solid state technologies including high linearity, low insertion loss, low power consumption, good isolation, and low cost [1–21]. However, there is little fundamental understanding of the factors determining the performance and reliability of these devices. Our previous work investigated fundamentals of hot-switched direct current (DC) gold (Au) contacts using a modified microadhesion apparatus as a switch simulator [1]. Those experiments were conducted under precisely controlled operating conditions in air at MEMS-scale forces with an emphasis on the role of surface forces and electric current on switch performance, reliability, and durability [1]. Electric current had a profound effect on deformation mechanisms, adhesion, contact resistance (R), and reliability/durability. At low current (1–10 μA), asperity creep and switching induced adhesion were the most important observations, whereas, at high current (1–10 mA), lack of adhesion and switch shorting by nanowire formation were prominent [1].

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