Gas breakdown in microelectromechanical system capacitive switches is demonstrated using high resolution current measurements and by particle-in-cell/Monte Carlo collision (PIC/MCC) simulations. Measurements show an electric current through a 3 μm air gap increasing exponentially with voltage, starting at 60 V. PIC/MCC simulations with Fowler-Nordheim [Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 119, 173 (1928)] field emission reveal self-sustained discharges with significant ion enhancement and a positive space charge. The effective ion-enhanced field emission coefficient increases with voltage up to about 0.3 with an electron avalanche occurring at 159 V. The measurements and simulations demonstrate a charging mechanism for microswitches consistent with earlier observations of gas pressure and composition effects on lifetime.
Date of this Version
Venkattraman, A; Garg, A; Peroulis, D; and Alexeenko, Alina A., "Direct measurements and numerical simulations of gas charging in microelectromechanical system capacitive switches" (2012). School of Aeronautics and Astronautics Faculty Publications. Paper 36.