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Design and Simulation of Microresistor Beam

Introduction This design and simulation illustrates the ability to couple thermal, electrical, and structural analysis in one model. When a current is passed through the microresistor beam, it generates heat, and the temperature increase leads to displacement through thermal expansion. The model estimates how much current and increase in temperature are necessary to displace the beam. A copper microbeam shown in figure 1 has a length of 13 m with a height and width of 1 m. Feet at both ends bond it rigidly to a substrate. An electric potential of 0.2 V applied between the feet induces an electric current. Due to the materials resistivity, the current heats up the structure. Because the beam operates in the open, the generated heat dissipates into the air. The thermally induced stress loads the material and deforms the beam.

Figure 1: Microbeam geometry.

Theory Joule heating, also known as ohmic heating and resistive heating, is the process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor releases heat. As a first approximation, the electric conductivity is assumed to be constant. However, a conductors resistivity increases with temperature. In the case of copper, the relationship between resistivity and temperature is approximately linear over a wide range of temperatures: (1) is the temperature coefficient. The conductors temperature dependency is obtained from the relationship that defines electric resistivity; conductivity is simply its reciprocal ( = 1/). For the heat transfer equations, the base boundaries facing the substrate are set to a constant temperature of 323 K. The convective air cooling in other boundaries is modeled using a heat flux boundary condition with a heat transfer coefficient, h, of 5 W/(m2K) and an external temperature, Text, of 298 K. Standard constraints handle the bases rigid connection to the substrate.

Simulation Figure 3 shows the temperature field on the microbeam surface when solving the model using a temperature-dependent resistivity as in Equation 1. Based on the color scale, the maximum temperature is about 710 K whereas the maximum temperature is 1048K for constant electric conductivity in figure2. Figure 5 shows the microbeams deformation. The displacement for the temperature-dependent case is 49 nm compared to the maximum displacement for constant electric conductivity, which is 89 nm as shown in figure 4(the plot scales the deformation by a factor of around 20). Similarly, the simulation has been carried out for aluminium microbeam. There is an increase in the maximum displacement of the beam with the applied voltage as compared to copper microbeam.

Figure 2: Temperature field for constant electric conductivity.

Figure 3: Surface temperature with temperature-dependent electric conductivity.

Figure 4: Displacement field for constant electric conductivity.

Figure 5: Microbeam deformation with temperature-dependent electric conductivity.

Results and Discussion Using the more realistic material model with a temperature-dependent electric conductivity has a significant effect on the solution. The maximum temperature is almost 340 K lower than that of the model with a constant electric conductivity. Similarly, the maximum displacement has been reduced from 89 nm to around 50 nm. The linear increase of maximum displacement of the beam with the applied voltage is shown below for copper and aluminium beams (fig 6). Aluminium shows greater displacement than copper since the coefficient of thermal expansion for Al is 42% greater than that of Cu. But copper is widely used since it has higher conductivity, is more ductile, has relatively high tensile strength, and can be easily soldered.

160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30

Al Cu

Max. Displacement (nm)


Applied Voltage (V)

Figure 6: Variation of max displacement with applied voltage for copper and aluminium beams.

Applications Temperature actuated valves, switches, latches, clamps and control devices are typical applications.