MEMS actuator

Ratcheting micro-motor allows for movement in two directions


Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) are miniaturized devices (micron dimensions) that consist of actuators, sensors, and other mechanical structures. Actuators account for more than 50 percent of the rapidly growing MEMS market and are used in a variety of optical, RF, and industrial applications. Examples include variable capacitors, micro-relays for low-power VLSI, optical phase-shifters, next generation displays, micro-grippers for robotic surgery, and focusing mechanisms for cameras in mobile devices. Typical MEMS actuators may be electrostatic, magnetic, or thermal. Thermal actuators are classified as v-beam, u-beam, or bimorph types. They are typically fabricated by etching or lithographic processes similar to the production process for integrated circuits. All three types of thermal actuators are traditionally designed to displace in only one direction and, if multidirectional displacement is required, a single actuator for each displacement direction is required, increasing complexity and area.

Navy researchers have developed a v-beam MEMS bidirectional thermal actuator. This device has high force, excellent displacement, draws limited power, and is simple to fabricate.

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