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Purdue leads center to simulate behavior of micro-electromechanical systems

o reduce the size of switching equipment from several inches to 1 millimeter, or thousandth of a meter.

"Even though MEMS have a big size, weight and cost advantage, they are not really reliable enough yet," Murthy said.

A major challenge is creating "multiscale" simulations that bridge a broad range of size and time scales associated with objects measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter, to objects measured in millimeters.

One problem is that matter behaves differently on the scale of nanometers than it does in the ordinary macro world of meters. Another complication is that important failure phenomena in MEMS may occur over a range of time scales, ranging from billionths of a second to several months.

The center will focus on creating simulations to unite these sizes and time scales, capturing the entire workings of a design, from its nanometer-scale layout to its macro-scale features. The research will draw on expertise and facilities affiliated with Purdue's Network for Computational Nanotechnology, based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center, and the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing, a division of Purdue's Office of Information Technology. The NNSA's national laboratory personnel will be advisers and collaborators in this research effort.

The research will concentrate on specific types of MEMS, called radio frequency MEMS, and particularly a device called a metal-dielectric contacting MEMS. The tiny switches have a length of about 400 microns, or millionths of a meter, or roughly four times the width of a human hair. The devices, switches used to turn on and off radio frequency signals, are made of a thin metal membrane located on top of a dielectric contact.

During operation, the membrane snaps on top of the contact, altering an electronic property called capacitance and switching off the radio signal, in effect turning off the device.

Researchers in the center will create a simulation syst

Contact: Phillip Fiorini
Purdue University

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