Space Applications of MEMS, 15-9229

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Principal Investigators
David J. McComas
Gregory P. Miller
Susan E. Pope
Martin P. Wüest
Raymond Goldstein

Inclusive Dates: 11/27/00 - Current

Background - This project involves development of a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) capability for space applications within the Institute. The ultimate objective of this effort is to be able to rapidly incorporate MEMS into future space instrumentation proposed and developed by SwRI. Future space missions incorporating new miniaturized instrument designs could benefit significantly from the application of MEMS technology. These devices can be affordably incorporated in highly miniaturized sensors requiring a level of manufacturing precision not possible with current macro-scale technology. Additionally, the savings in mass and power make these devices ideal for micro-scale, low-cost missions planned in future NASA programs. Through this internal research initiative, SwRI has undertaken its first step to develop MEMS capabilities at the Institute having near-term applications for space flight instrumentation. These capabilities include the design, testing, and implementation of a broad range of MEMS devices such as neutral particle velocity selector arrays, variable aperture arrays, energy analyzer arrays, and variable MEMS mass spectrometer and optical spectrometer image slits.

Approach - The approach is to 1) identify potential MEMS devices that can be used for space applications at a great reduction of size, mass, and power; 2) design and fabricate these devices using the Sandia National Laboratory five-ayered Ultra-planar Multi-level MEMS fabrication Technology (SUMMiT V™) and design software, 3) develop a state-of-the-art, vibration-isolated, vacuum probe station with micromanipulators, imaging and drive electronics, and 4) develop techniques to release, test, and evaluate performance of MEMS devices at high vacuum, simulated space environment, conditions using the SwRI vacuum probe station.

Accomplishments - The team has successfully constructed a vibration-isolated vacuum probe station fitted with four micro-manipulated probes, a microscope, a CCD camera, and two high-voltage arbitrary waveform generators for driving the MEMS devices. The team has designed and fabricated a number of MEMS devices that are of interest for future missions and have begun testing them in vacuum. The team has also successfully tested the SwRI velocity filter and variable aperture to execute motion when a voltage is applied to them as shown below. Additionally the team has constructed a clean down flow area to eliminate potential particulate contamination from contaminating the surface of MEMS devices during installation.

SwRI-developed vacuum probe station
Variable apertures with no voltage applied shown in closed position
Variable apertures with 110 volts applied shown in open position

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