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Surface chemical modification for exceptional wear life of MEMS materials

Author(s): R. Arvind Singh | N. Satyanarayana | Sujeet Kumar Sinha

Journal: AIP Advances
ISSN 2158-3226

Volume: 1;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 042141;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) are built at micro/nano-scales. At these scales, the interfacial forces are extremely strong. These forces adversely affect the smooth operation and cause wear resulting in the drastic reduction in wear life (useful operating lifetime) of actuator-based devices. In this paper, we present a surface chemical modification method that reduces friction and significantly extends the wear life of the two most popular MEMS structural materials namely, silicon and SU-8 polymer. The method includes surface chemical treatment using ethanolamine-sodium phosphate buffer, followed by coating of perfluoropolyether (PFPE) nanolubricant on (i) silicon coated with SU-8 thin films (500 nm) and (ii) MEMS process treated SU-8 thick films (50 μm). After the surface chemical modification, it was observed that the steady-state coefficient of friction of the materials reduced by 4 to 5 times and simultaneously their wear durability increased by more than three orders of magnitude (> 1000 times). The significant reduction in the friction coefficients is due to the lubrication effect of PFPE nanolubricant, while the exceptional increase in their wear life is attributed to the bonding between the -OH functional group of ethanolamine treated SU-8 thin/thick films and the -OH functional group of PFPE. The surface chemical modification method acts as a common route to enhance the performance of both silicon and SU-8 polymer. It is time-effective (process time ≤ 11 min), cost-effective and can be readily integrated into MEMS fabrication/assembly processes. It can also work for any kind of structural material from which the miniaturized devices are/can be made.
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