The design, fabrication and testing of micromachined nickel beams buckling under thermal loading will be presented in this paper. The focus will be on characterizing key design parameters important to the implementation of electroplated nickel beams as the actuation mechanism in a thermally adaptive microvalve. An analytical model of the thermal buckling phenomena has been developed and validated with test results from electroplated nickel beams with slight eccentricities. Highly nonlinear deflection versus temperature curves were predicted by the closed form model and match well with experimental measurements. Buckling deflections of more than 50μm were achieved at actuation temperatures under 100°C. The nickel beam fabrication process will be presented, as well as various fabrication related issues impacting the actuation capabilities of the beams.

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