Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



Mohaidat, S.; Alsaleem, F. A Threshold Helium Leakage Detection Switch with Ultra Low Power Operation. Sensors 2023, 23, 4019.


Open access.


Detecting helium leakage is important in many applications, such as in dry cask nuclear waste storage systems. This work develops a helium detection system based on the relative permittivity (dielectric constant) difference between air and helium. This difference changes the status of an electrostatic microelectromechanical system (MEMS) switch. The switch is a capacitive-based device and requires a very negligible amount of power. Exciting the switch’s electrical resonance enhances the MEMS switch sensitivity to detect low helium concentration. This work simulates two different MEMS switch configurations: a cantilever-based MEMS modeled as a single-degreefreedom model and a clamped-clamped beam MEMS molded using the COMSOL Multiphysics finite-element software. While both configurations demonstrate the switch’s simple operation concept, the clamped-clamped beam was selected for detailed parametric characterization due to its comprehensive modeling approach. The beam detects at least 5% helium concentration levels when excited at 3.8 MHz, near electrical resonance. The switch performance decreases at lower excitation frequencies or increases the circuit resistance. The MEMS sensor detection level was relatively immune to beam thickness and parasitic capacitance changes. However, higher parasitic capacitance increases the switch’s susceptibility to errors, fluctuations, and uncertainties.