Fluid-structure interactions in microstructures
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Radio-frequency microelectromechanical systems (RF MEMS) are widely used for contact actuators and capacitive switches. These devices typically consist of a metallic membrane which is activated by a time-periodic electrostatic force and makes periodic contact with a contact pad. The increase in switch capacitance at contact causes the RF signal to be deflected and the switch thus closes. Membrane motion is damped by the surrounding gas, typically air or nitrogen. As the switch opens and closes, the flow transitions between the continuum and rarefied regimes. Furthermore, creep is a critical physical mechanism responsible for the failure in these devices, especially those operating at high RF power. Simultaneous and accurate modeling of all these different physics is required to understand the dynamical membrane response in these devices and to estimate device lifetime and to improve MEMS reliability. It is advantageous to model fluid and structural mechanics and electrostatics within a single comprehensive numerical framework to facilitate coupling between them. In this work, we develop a single unified finite volume method based numerical framework to study this multi-physics problem in RF MEMS. Our objective required us to develop structural solvers, fluid flow solvers, and electrostatic solvers using the finite volume method, and efficient mechanisms to couple these different solvers. A particular focus is the development of flow solvers which work efficiently across continuum and rarefied regimes. A number of novel contributions have been made in this process. Structural solvers based on a fully implicit finite volume method have been developed for the first time. Furthermore, strongly implicit fluid flow solvers have also been developed that are valid for both continuum and rarefied flow regimes and which show an order of magnitude speed-up over conventional algorithms on serial platforms. On parallel platforms, the solution techniques developed in this thesis are shown to be significantly more scalable than existing algorithms. The numerical methods developed are used to compute the static and dynamic response of MEMS. Our results indicate that our numerical framework can become a computationally efficient tool to model the dynamics of RF MEMS switches under electrostatic actuation and gas damping.