We have developed and demonstrated a method for forming spherical structures of a thin polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) membrane encapsulating a liquid. Liquid encapsulation can enhance the performance of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices by providing deformability and improved dielectric properties. Parylene deposition and wafer bonding are applied to encapsulate liquid into a MEMS device. In parylene deposition, a parylene membrane is directly formed onto a liquid droplet. However, since the parylene membrane is stiff, the membrane is fragile. Although wafer bonding can encapsulate liquid between two substrates, the surface of the fabricated structure is normally flat. We propose a new liquid encapsulation method by dispensing liquid droplets. At first, a 20 μl PDMS droplet is dispensed on ethylene glycol. A 70 μl glycerin droplet is dispensed into a PDMS casting solution layer. The droplet forms a layer on heated ethylene glycol. Glycerin and ethylene glycol are chosen for their high boiling points. Additionally, a glycerin droplet is dispensed on the layer and surrounded by a thin PDMS casting solution film. The film is baked for 1 h at 75 °C. As the result, a structure encapsulating a liquid in a flexible PDMS membrane is obtained. We investigate the effects of the volume, surface tension, and guide thickness on the shape of the formed structures. We also evaluated the effect of the structure diameter on miniaturization. The structure can be adapted for various functions by changing the encapsulated liquid. We fabricated a stiffness-tunable structure by dispensing a magnetorheoligical fluid droplet with a stiffness that can be changed by an external magnetic field. We also confirmed that the proposed structure can produce stiffness differences that are distinguishable by humans.
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