The asymmetric buckling of a shallow initially curved stress-free micro beam subjected to distributed nonlinear deflection-dependent electrostatic force is studied. The analysis is based on a two degrees of freedom reduced order (RO) model, resulting from the Galerkin decomposition with linear undamped eigen-modes of a straight beam used as the base functions. Simple approximate expressions are derived defining the geometric parameters of beams for which an asymmetric response bifurcates from the symmetric one. The necessary criterion establishes the conditions for the appearance of bifurcation points on the unstable branch of the symmetric response curve; the sufficient criterion assures a realistic asymmetric buckling bifurcating from the stable branches of the curve. It is shown that while the symmetry breaking conditions are affected by the nonlinearity of the electrostatic force, its influence is less pronounced than in the case of the symmetric snap-through criterion. A comparison between the RO model results and those obtained by direct numerical analysis shows good agreement between the two and indicates that the obtained criteria can be used to predict non-symmetric buckling in electrostatically actuated bistable micro beams.

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