A MEMS cantilever IR detector that repetitively lifts from the surface under the influence of a saw-tooth electrostatic force, where the contact duty cycle is a measure of the absorbed IR radiation, is analyzed. The design is comprised of three parallel conducting plates. Fixed buried and surface plates are held at opposite potential. A moveable cantilever is biased the same as the surface plate. Calculations based on energy methods with position-dependent capacity and electrostatic induction coefficients demonstrate the upward sign of the force on the cantilever and determine the force magnitude. 2D finite element method calculations of the local fields confirm the sign of the force and determine its distribution across the cantilever. The upward force is maximized when the surface plate is slightly larger than the other two. The electrostatic repulsion is compared with Casimir sticking force to determine the maximum useful contact area. MEMS devices were fabricated and the vertical displacement of the cantilever was observed in a number of experiments. The approach may be applied also to MEMS actuators and micromirrors.
Thermomechanical noise for a MEMs-based infrared detector using null switching (US patent 7977635) depends on vibrational amplitude, since IR radiation is transduced to a change in the duty cycle of a repetitively closing switch. Equipartition theorem gives a maximum rms vibrational amplitude of 45 pm for the fabricated cantilever switch at its natural frequency. This gives a worst case timing uncertainty of 700 ns and an NEP of 2 pW/Sqrt[Hz].
The Planetary Atmospheres Minor Species Sensor (PAMSS) is an ultra-trace gas sensor. This paper reports its transition from a Technical Readiness Level of 4 (TRL4) to TRL 5 and an established path forward to TRL6. This report describes tests of PAMSS in chambers that simulate a balloon flight to 30 km. Lessons learned inform a number of improvements, which are being implemented for a balloon flight planned for June 2014.