The quality of electrical contact resistance is important to the performance and reliability of metal-contact microelectromechanical system (MEMS) relays and switches. The cyclic degradation of contact resistance was examined for a metal multilayer sphere-on-flat contact at low contact force. The relationships between the degradation and underlying mechanisms, particularly surface contamination effects, were investigated through experimentation and analysis. Results indicated that the degradation severity could be significantly decreased with environmental control and contact current reduction. Micro-arcs at very small surface gaps, which can decompose adsorbed contaminants and leave an insulating surface film, were proposed as a cause of the resistance degradation.

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