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Bistable microelectromechanical actuator

United States Patent

5,867,302
February 2, 1999
View the Complete Patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office
Sandia National Laboratories - Visit the Intellectual Property Management and Licensing Website
A bistable microelectromechanical (MEM) actuator is formed on a substrate and includes a stressed membrane of generally rectangular shape that upon release assumes a curvilinear cross-sectional shape due to attachment at a midpoint to a resilient member and at opposing edges to a pair of elongate supports. The stressed membrane can be electrostatically switched between a pair of mechanical states having mirror-image symmetry, with the MEM actuator remaining in a quiescent state after a programming voltage is removed. The bistable MEM actuator according to various embodiments of the present invention can be used to form a nonvolatile memory element, an optical modulator (with a pair of mirrors supported above the membrane and moving in synchronism as the membrane is switched), a switchable mirror (with a single mirror supported above the membrane at the midpoint thereof) and a latching relay (with a pair of contacts that open and close as the membrane is switched). Arrays of bistable MEM actuators can be formed for applications including nonvolatile memories, optical displays and optical computing.
Fleming; James G. (Albuquerque, NM)
Sandia Corporation (Albuquerque, NM)
08/ 908,639
August 7, 1997
GOVERNMENT RIGHTS This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.