Date of Award

Summer 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Muhammad A Alam

Committee Chair

Muhammad A Alam

Committee Member 1

Arvind Raman

Committee Member 2

Mark S. Lundstrom

Committee Member 3

Rashid Bashir


Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are considered as potential candidates for "More-Moore" and "More-than-Moore" applications due to their versatile use as sensors, switches, and actuators. Examples include accelerometers for sensing, RF-MEMS capacitive switches in communication, suspended-gate (SG) FETs in computation, and deformable mirrors in optics. In spite of the wide range of applications of MEMS in diverse fields, one of the major challenges for MEMS is their instability. Instability divides the operation into stable and unstable regimes and poses fundamental challenges for several applications. For example: Tuning range of deformable mirrors is fundamentally limited by pull-in instability, RF-MEMS capacitive switches suffer from the problem of hard landing, and intrinsic hysteresis of SG-FETs puts a lower bound on the minimum power dissipation. ^ In this thesis, we provide solutions to the application specific problems of MEMS and utilize operation in or close to unstable regime for performance enhancement in several novel applications. Specifically, we propose the following: (i) novel device concepts with nanostructured electrodes to address the aforementioned problems of instability, (ii) a switch with hysteresis-free ideal switching characteristics based on the operation in unstable regime, and (iii) a Flexure biosensor that operates at the boundary of the stable and unstable regimes to achieve improved sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio. In general, we have advocated electrode geometry as a design variable for MEMS, and used MEMS as an illustrative example of "Landau" systems to advocate operation regime as a new design variable