The thermal contact conductance (TCC) of microactuated mechanical interfaces has been characterized using an electronic technique, where micromachined test structures were heated with a current and the TCC was inferred from the change in resistance. For every device tested, the TCC was higher in vacuum than in air. This is in stark contrast to the behavior of bulk interfaces, and several experiments suggest that it may be the result of a decreased solid-solid contact area in air caused by the pressure of the interstitial gas. The average effective TCC of a polysilicon/nitride interface brought together by electrostatic actuation varies about values of 6.0×104W/(Km2) in air and 9.5×10 4W/(Km2) under vacuum for applied pressures of 1 MPa. These values are significantly higher than commonly reported for nonmetallic materials and probably reflect the very smooth surfaces of deposited thin films.
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