Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are currently built from silicon, some metals, and a few other materials but few ceramic materials are available for microfabrication. Contrast this situation with the fact that many revolutionary devices and processes in the macroscopic world involve ceramics and composites. The incorporation of ceramics into microscopic devices would allow the exploitation of novel properties such as increased toughness, high temperature inertness, chemical and biological compatibility, magnetism, piezoelectricity, and photochromism.
In this talk, we will present recent results on the fabrication of functional MEMS microcomponents from ceramic nanocomposites. Our fabrication technique consists of: 1) formulation of a nanocomposite mixture; 2) micromold filling; 3) curing and planarization; 4) chemical removal of the mold. Micromolded components can be produced free standing or assembled on substrates. By using particles with nanometer diameters, we are able to mold components with lateral dimensions in the order of a few microns. Microscopy studies indicate that molding of submicron size features should be possible with nanocomposites. This process is compatible with existing integrated circuit manufacturing processes, so incorporation of this technique into semiconductor fabrication lines should be feasible.
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