Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Gordon G Parker


This dissertation discusses structural-electrostatic modeling techniques, genetic algorithm based optimization and control design for electrostatic micro devices.

First, an alternative modeling technique, the interpolated force model, for electrostatic micro devices is discussed. The method provides improved computational efficiency relative to a benchmark model, as well as improved accuracy for irregular electrode configurations relative to a common approximate model, the parallel plate approximation model. For the configuration most similar to two parallel plates, expected to be the best case scenario for the approximate model, both the parallel plate approximation model and the interpolated force model maintained less than 2.2% error in static deflection compared to the benchmark model. For the configuration expected to be the worst case scenario for the parallel plate approximation model, the interpolated force model maintained less than 2.9% error in static deflection while the parallel plate approximation model is incapable of handling the configuration.

Second, genetic algorithm based optimization is shown to improve the design of an electrostatic micro sensor. The design space is enlarged from published design spaces to include the configuration of both sensing and actuation electrodes, material distribution, actuation voltage and other geometric dimensions. For a small population, the design was improved by approximately a factor of 6 over 15 generations to a fitness value of 3.2 fF. For a larger population seeded with the best configurations of the previous optimization, the design was improved by another 7% in 5 generations to a fitness value of 3.0 fF.

Third, a learning control algorithm is presented that reduces the closing time of a radiofrequency microelectromechanical systems switch by minimizing bounce while maintaining robustness to fabrication variability. Electrostatic actuation of the plate causes pull-in with high impact velocities, which are difficult to control due to parameter variations from part to part. A single degree-of-freedom model was utilized to design a learning control algorithm that shapes the actuation voltage based on the open/closed state of the switch. Experiments on 3 test switches show that after 5-10 iterations, the learning algorithm lands the switch with an impact velocity not exceeding 0.2 m/s, eliminating bounce.