This work presents the modeling, design, and testing of an underwater microactuation system. It is composed of several thermomechanical in-plane microactuators (TIM) integrated with a ratchet system to provide long displacements and high forces to underwater microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). It is capable of actuating a 200µN load 110µm. It is a two-layer silicon MEMS device fabricated with a MEMS fabrication process, PolyMUMPS. This work also shows the development of an elliptic integral model to analyze the compliant fixed-guided beams in the TIM and gives new insight into the buckling behavior, reaction forces, and displacement of the beams. The derivation, verification, and practical use of the model are shown in detail. It compares the reaction force predictions from the elliptic integral model with finite element modeling results over a wide range of non-dimensional displacements and slenderness ratios. The elliptic integral model was used to design a TIM that can operate in an aqueous environment. It was designed to achieve 9µm of displacement to drive a linear ratcheting mechanism. The thermal analysis was done in ANSYS using a 3D conduction model to predict the temperature of the heated beams. The TIM was designed to operate with a peak beam temperature of 100 ° C to prevent damage to the device due to vapor bubble formation. The main actuator showed significant electrolysis due to the high voltages used to drive the system, but otherwise functioned as predicted. Through the development and testing of the actuation system, quantitative voltage limits were discovered for underwater actuation systems under which electrolysis and boiling can be eliminated using alternating current.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Microelectromechanical Systems, MEMS, BioMEMS, underwater microactuator, thermomechanical in-plane microactuator