Bistable microsystems have drawn considerable interest from the MEMS/NEMS research community not only due to their broad applicability in commercial applications, such as switching, but also because of the rich dynamic behavior they commonly exhibit. While a number of prior investigations have studied the dynamics of bistable microsystems, comparatively few works have sought to characterize their transient behavior. The present effort seeks to address this through the modeling and analysis of an optically-actuated, bistable MEMS switch. This work begins with the development of a distributed-parameter representation for the system, which is subsequently reduced to a lumped-mass analog and analyzed through the use of numerical simulation. The influence of various system and excitation parameters, including the applied axial load and optical actuation profile, on the system’s transient response is then investigated. Ultimately, the methodologies and results presented herein should provide for a refined predictive design capability for optically-actuated, bistable MEMS devices.

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