Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Tod Laurvik, PhD


MEMS switches show advantages over FET transistors and PIN diodes for switching applications due to low contact resistance, high linearity, low power use, better isolation and lower insertion loss. The switches have not replaced FETs or PIN diodes due to perceived limitations in their reliability and the need for stable contact resistance. In order to create switches acceptable for industry applications, research on micro-contact physics and failure mechanisms of micro-contacts is necessary to develop durable contact surfaces. The aim of this research was to design and fabricate micro-contacts with three-dimensional surfaces using grayscale lithography. The goal was to create devices that have stable resistances within the ballistic electron transport region. These devices were designed to restrict current to smaller areas to take advantage of micro-contact physics. The micro-contacts were designed using a 24 factorial to determine factors that are significant to operating within the ballistic regime and maintaining stable contact resistances. The contacts were tested in a test stand filled with nitrogen gas that uses a piezoelectric actuator to cycle the devices with an applied signal for a specified number of cycles. The contact resistance and contact force were recorded at certain points during testing. Testing revealed that certain micro-contacts with three-dimensional surfaces fit into the ballistic electron transport model for 1 million cycles. After testing, the micro-contacts were inspected using a Scanning Electron Microscope and 3-D microscope to determine the presence of failure mechanisms.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number