Fabrication and characterization of a thermal switch

J. Cho, T. Wiser, C. Richards, D. Bahr, R. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The development of a thermal switch based on arrays of liquid-metal micro-droplets is presented. Prototype thermal switches are assembled from a silicon substrate on which is deposited an array of 1600 30-μm liquid-metal micro-droplets. The liquid-metal micro-droplet array makes and breaks contact with a second bare silicon substrate. A gap between the two silicon substrates is filled with either air at 760 Torr, air at of 0.5 Torr or xenon at 760 Torr. Heat transfer and thermal resistance across the thermal switches are measured for "on" (make contact) and "off" (break contact) conditions using guard-heated calorimetry. The figure of merit for a thermal switch, the ratio of "off" state thermal resistance over "on" state thermal resistance, Roff/Ron, is 129 ± 43 for a xenon-filled thermal switch that opens 100 μm and 60 ± 17 for an 0.5 Torr air-filled thermal switch that opens 25 μm. These thermal resistance ratios are shown to be markedly higher than values of Roff/Ron for a thermal switch based on contact between polished silicon surfaces. Transient temperature measurements for the liquid-metal micro-droplet switches indicate thermal switching times of less than 100 ms. Switch lifetimes are found to exceed one-million cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalSensors and Actuators, A: Physical
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 8 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the DARPA MTO MPG Program and SMDC under contract DASG60-02-C-0001 and the NSF under grant CTS-0404370.


  • Heat switch
  • Heat transfer
  • Thermal resistance
  • Thermal switch
  • Thermomechanical characteristics


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