MEMS-based Universal Fatigue-Test Technique

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We have developed a MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems)—based method for fatigue testing of micrometer— millimeter-sized specimens of any material (hence ‘universal’). The miniature, re-usable, stand-alone fatigue test frame is fabricated as a single MEMS chip. Specimens of any material can be manually mounted in the chip and fatigue-tested. We describe the design and construction of the MEMS device and specimens, the test protocol and data analysis procedure, and show stress versus number of cycles to failure (S-N) results for 25 μm thick Al 1145 H19 foil. The S-N results are in accord with expectations, and examination of the fracture surface by scanning electron microscopy shows distinct regions corresponding to slow and fast crack growth.

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    Commercial equipment is identified only in order to clearly explain the procedures used. In no case does such identification imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nor does it imply that the products identified are necessarily the best available for the purpose.


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The authors thank Yunda Wang, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, for helpful discussions on MEMS capacitive sensing circuitry.

Author information

Correspondence to L. A. Liew.

Additional information

Contribution of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Not subject to copyright in the U.S.A.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

MEMS fatigue test instrument applying loads to a Al 1145 H19 specimen. (MPG 24058 kb)

time-lapse movie consisting of optical micrographs of a Al 1145 H19 specimen’s gage section, showing fatigue crack initiation, slow crack growth, and rapid crack growth (failure) over 7x107 cycles. (MPG 1414 kb)

Video 1

MEMS fatigue test instrument applying loads to a Al 1145 H19 specimen. (MPG 24058 kb)

Video 2

time-lapse movie consisting of optical micrographs of a Al 1145 H19 specimen’s gage section, showing fatigue crack initiation, slow crack growth, and rapid crack growth (failure) over 7x107 cycles. (MPG 1414 kb)

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Liew, L.A., Read, D.T. & Barbosa, N. MEMS-based Universal Fatigue-Test Technique. Exp Mech 53, 783–794 (2013) doi:10.1007/s11340-012-9666-5

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  • Fatigue
  • Crack
  • Micro-electro-mechanical systems
  • Comb drive actuator
  • Materials reliability