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.


Copyright (2012) American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics. The following article appeared in (A. Venkattraman*, A. Garg, D. Peroulis, and A. A. Alexeenko, “Direct Measurements and Numerical Simulations of Gas Charging in MEMS Capacitive Switches”, Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 100, 083503, 4 pages, 2012.) and may be found at (http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3688176). The following article has been submitted to/accepted by [Physics of Fluids]. After it is published, it will be found at (http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3688176). Copyright (2012) A. Venkattraman*, A. Garg, D. Peroulis, and A. A. Alexeenko. This article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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