Liquid metal microscale switches, often using mercury, are sometimes used in place of solid-solid contact switches because of the ability to minimize damage from switching and the ability to make good contacts for electrical and thermal conductivity. However, mercury has potential health and safety problems, and is difficult to use at high frequency (kHz) operation due to poor adhesion between the liquid-solid contacts. One alternative to the mechanical and chemical problems of a liquid mercury switch is using soft metals, such as gallium or tin, as a solid metal sphere for switches that can melt at moderate temperatures. Ga micro-spheres for switching operations were deposited on a substrate consisting of photolithographically patterned W films on SiO2 and Si substrates by electroplating, and the applicability for use in a microscale switch was investigated by characterizing the macro structure, hardness, and electrical performance during switching. The resistivity of the electroplated Ga droplets was similar to the theoretical value for pure Ga, and suggests that the electrodeposited Ga will be suitable for a solid MEMS switch. The hardness of the Ga sphere was 5.7 MPa. This suggests a maximum of ∼40 micron-Newton can be applied to each 50 micron-meter radius Ga contact in the current configuration for switching applications. When the Ga spheres were investigated for electrical performance during hot switching, the resistance increased over six switching cycles, but the original lower resistivity was recovered after a 393 K thermal reflow process.
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Kim, Y., David, F.B. Fabrication and Hot Switching Behavior of Electroplated Gallium Spheres for MEMS. MRS Online Proceedings Library 1139, 305 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-1139-GG03-05