MEMS, UV-LIGA, Microvalve, Nanocomposite, Electroforming, Nickel, Electroforming, Micro Mechanical Testing


UV-LIGA is a microfabrication process realzed by material deposition through microfabricated molds. UV photolithography is conducted to pattern precise thick micro molds using UV light sensitive materials, mostly SU-8, and electroforming is performed to fabricate micro metallic structures defined by the micro molds. Therefore, UV-LIGA is a bottom-up in situ material-addition process. UV-LIGA has received broad attention recently than LIGA – a micro molding fabrication process using X-ray to pattern the micro molds. LIGA is an expansive and is limited in access. In comparing to LIGA, the UV-LIGA is a cost effective process, and is widely accessible and safe. Therefore, it has been extensively used for the fabrication of metallic micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS). The motivation of this research was to study micro mechanical systems fabricated with nano-structured metallic materials via UV-LIGA process. Various micro mechanical systems with high-aspect-ratio and thick metallic structures have been developed and are presented in this desertation. A novel micro mechanical valve has been developed with nano-structured nickel realized with UV-LIGA fabrication technique. Robust compact valves are crucial for space applications where payload and rubstaness are critically concerned. Two types of large flow rate robust passive micro check valve arrays have been designed, fabricated and tested for robust hydraulic actuators. The first such micro valve developed employs nanostructured nickel as the valve flap and single-crystal silicon as the substrates to house inlet and outlet channels. The Nano-structured nickel valve flap was fabricated using the UV-LIGA process developed and the microchannels were fabricated by deep reactive etching (DRIE) method. The valves were designed to operate under a high pressure (>10MPa), able to operate at high frequencies (>10kHz) in cooperating with the PZT actuator to produce large flow rates (>10 cc/s). The fabricated microvalves weigh 0.2 gram, after packing with a novel designated valve stopper. The tested results showed that the micro valve was able to operate at up to 14kHz. This is a great difference in comparison to traditional mechanical valves whose operations are limited to 500 Hz or less. The advantages of micro machined valves attribute to the scaling laws. The second type of micro mechanical valves developed is a in situ assembled solid metallic (nickel) valves. Both the valve substrates for inlet and outlet channels and the valve flap, as well as the valve stopper were made by nickel through a UV-LIGA fabrication process developed. Continuous multiple micro molds fabrication and molding processes were performed. Final micro mechanical valves were received after removing the micro molds used to define the strutures. There is no any additional machining process, such as cutting or packaging. The alignment for laminated fabrication was realized under microscope, therefore it is a highly precise in situ fabrication process. Testing results show the valve has a forward flow rate of19 cc/s under a pressure difference of 90 psi. The backward flow rate of 0.023 cc/s, which is negligible (0.13%). Nano-structured nickel has also been used to develop laminated (sandwiched) micro cryogenic heater exchanger with the UV-LIGA process. Even though nickel is apparently not a good thermal conductor at room temperature, it is a good conductor at cryogentic temerpature since its thermal conductivity increases to 1250 W/k·m at 77K. Micro patterned SU-8 molds and electroformed nickel have been developed to realize the sandwiched heat exchanger. The SU-8 mold (200mm x 200mm x50mm) array was successfully removed after completing the nickel electroforming. The second layer of patterned SU-8 layer (200mm x 200mm x50mm, as a thermal insulating layer) was patterned and aligned on the top of the electroformed nickel structure to form the laminated (sandwiched) micro heat exchanger. The fabricated sandwiched structure can withstand cryogenic temperature (77K) without any damages (cracks or delaminations). A study on nanocomposite for micro mechanical systems using UV-LIGA compatible electroforming process has been performed. Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have been proven excellent mechanical properties and thermal conductive properties, such as high strength and elastic modulus, negative coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) and a high thermal conductivity. These properties make SWNT an excellent reinforcement in nanocomposite for various applications. However, there has been a challenge of utilizing SWNTs for engineering applications due to difficulties in quality control and handling – too small (1-2nm in diameter). A novel copper/SWNT nanocomposite has been developed during this dissertational research. The goal of this research was to develop a heat spreader for high power electronics (HPE). Semiconductors for HPE, such as AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors grown on SiC dies have a typical CTE about 4~6x10-6/k while most metallic heat spreaders such as copper have a CTE of more than 10x10-6/k. The SWNTs were successfully dispersed in the copper matrix to form the SWNT/Cu nano composite. The tested composite density is about 7.54 g/cm3, which indicating the SWNT volumetric fraction of 18%. SEM pictures show copper univformly coated on SWNT (worm-shaped structure). The measured CTE of the nanocomposite is 4.7 x 10-6/°C, perfectly matching that of SiC die (3.8 x 10-6/°C). The thermal conductivity derived by Wiedemann-Franz law after measuring composit's electrical conductivity, is 588 W/m-K, which is 40% better than that of pure copper. These properties are extremely important for the heat spreader/exchanger to remove the heat from HPE devices (SiC dies). Meanwhile, the matched CTE will reduce the resulted stress in the interface to prevent delaminations. Therefore, the naocomposite developed will be an excellent replacement material for the CuMo currently used in high power radar, and other HPE devices under developing. The mechanical performance and reliability of micro mechanical devices are critical for their application. In order to validate the design & simulation results, a direct (tensile) test method was developed to test the mechanical properties of the materials involved in this research, including nickel and SU-8. Micro machined specimens were fabricated and tested on a MTS Tytron Micro Force Tester with specially designed gripers. The tested fracture strength of nanostructured nickel is 900±70 MPa and of 50MPa for SU-8, resepctively which are much higher than published values.


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Graduation Date





Chen, Quanfang


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering








Release Date

January 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)