This paper reports a numerical design analysis of electrostatically actuated micromembranes. We systematically compare membrane performance in terms of natural frequencies, pull-in voltage (the bias voltage at which the membrane contacts the base electrode) and the effects of variable leg lengths for a given membrane size. Some experimental data on membrane deflection profiles versus bias voltage is included along with some experimentally determined pull-in voltages. Polysilicon micromembranes were successfully fabricated using the low cost MUMPs process that limits the user to three structural layers. The devices are designed with an emphasis on the response of the membrane to applied DC bias voltage to allow for variable stiffening. Circular membranes with diameters ranging from 60 to 160 μm, suspended 2 μm over square back plates of side lengths varying from 60 to 140 μm are investigated for voltages up to 90 volts. Three-dimensional electromechanical finite element simulations have been performed. Pull-in voltage values from simulations compare favorably with the measured results. It was observed that, for maximum deflection of the membrane upon application of DC bias voltage, the optimal dimensions for back plate and top membrane should fall within the ranges 80–120 μm and 80–140 μm, respectively.

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