We report on the degradation of platinum micro-heating elements operating at high temperatures. Devices with platinum heaters suspended on micro-machined dielectric membranes were self-heated at high temperature until failure. Optical and SEM observations combined with mechanical deformation measurements and Thermal Laser Stimulation techniques were used to analyze the failure mechanisms of the micro-heating elements. Platinum atoms migration and breaking of the membrane were two failure modes observed. At high temperature, the migration of the platinum atoms was linked to the mechanical stress in the dielectric membrane. The Thermal Laser Stimulation technique revealed the formation of vertical as well as lateral thermocouples at mechanically deformed areas. One explanation proposed is that those thermocouples are the result of Si diffusion from the Si3N4 membrane into the platinum heater as well as electro-stress migration of platinum atoms. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.