Today, an ideal microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) switch is no longer a designer’s dream, yet electrothermomechanical (ETM) effects still limit the design possibilities and may adversely affect reliability of microswitches, especially the Ohmic-type cantilever contact switches. The ETM effects are a result of Joule heat generated at the switch contact areas (i.e., electrical interfaces). This heat is due to an electrical signal passing through a microswitch, internal resistance of contact materials, and characteristics of the electrical contact interface. It significantly raises temperature of a microswitch, thus adversely affecting mechanical and electrical properties of the contacts, leading to their wear or even welding, which is a major reliability issue. Fundamental research is being performed to minimize Joule heat effects in the electrical interface area, thus improving the microswitch performance and reliability. Thermal analysis conducted computationally on an Ohmic-type RF MEMS switch indicate heat affected zones (HAZ) and the influence that various parameters have on those zones. Such analysis facilitates mitigation of thermal management issues that may otherwise be detrimental to functional operation of a microswitch.

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