Materials science and fabrication processes for a new MEMS technology based on ultrananocrystalline diamond thin films

Orlando Auciello*, James Birrell, John A. Carlisle, Jennifer E. Gerbi, Xingcheng Xiao, Bei Peng, Horacio D. Espinosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Most MEMS devices are currently based on silicon because of the available surface machining technology. However, Si has poor mechanical and tribological properties which makes it difficult to produce high performance Si based MEMS devices that could work reliably, particularly in harsh environments; diamond, as a superhard material with high mechanical strength, exceptional chemical inertness, outstanding thermal stability and superior tribological performance, could be an ideal material for MEMS. A key challenge for diamond MEMS is the integration of diamond films with other materials. Conventional CVD thin film deposition methods produce diamond films with large grains, high internal stress, poor intergranular adhesion and very rough surfaces, and are consequently ill-suited for MEMS applications. Diamond-like films offer an alternative, but are deposited using physical vapour deposition methods unsuitable for conformal deposition on high aspect ratio features, and generally they do not exhibit the outstanding mechanical properties of diamond. We describe a new ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) film technology based on a microwave plasma technique using argon plasma chemistries that produce UNCD films with morphological and mechanical properties that are ideally suited for producing reliable MEMS devices. We have developed lithographic techniques for the fabrication of UNCD MEMS components, including cantilevers and multilevel devices, acting as precursors to micro-bearings and gears, making UNCD a promising material for the development of high performance MEMS devices. We also review the mechanical, tribological, electronic transport, chemical and biocompatibility properties of UNCD, which make this an ideal material for reliable, long endurance MEMS device use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R539-R552
JournalJournal of Physics Condensed Matter
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 28 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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