This article presents the results of a study conducted at Sandia National Labs to assess the effect of electrostatic discharge on surface micromachined MEMS devices. This failure mode has largely been overlooked because ESD failure mechanisms often mimic the effects of stiction-adhesion. To measure the susceptibility of MEMS devices to ESD, Sandia engineers built and tested a silicon microengine and a torsional ratcheting microactuator. Test results indicate that the effects of ESD are highly dependent on device design, component stiffness, and geometry and that slight modifications can bring improvements.
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