Microactuators are needed to convert energy into mechanical work at the microscale. Thermal microactuators can be used to produce this needed mechanical work. The purpose of this research was to design, fabricate, and test thermal microactuators for use at the microscale in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The microactuators developed were tested to determine the magnitude of their deflection and estimate their force. Five groups of thermal microactuators were designed and tested. All of the groups used the geometrically constrained expansion of various segments to produce their deflection. The first group, Thermal Expansion Devices (TEDs), produced a rotational displacement and had deflections up to 20 µm. The second group, Bi-directional Thermal Expansion Devices (Bi-TEDs) were similar to the TEDs. The difference, as the name implies, was that the Bi-TEDs deflected up to 6 µm in two directions. Thermomechanical In-plane Micromechanisms (TIMs) were the third group tested. They produced a linear motion up to 20 µm. The fourth group was the Rapid Expansion Bi-directional Actuators (REBAs). These microactuators were bi-directional and produced up to 12 µm deflection in each direction. The final group of thermal microactuators was the Joint Actuating Micro-mechanical Expansion Systems (JAMESs). These thermal microactuators rotated pin joints up to 8 degrees. The thermal microactuators studied can be used in a wide variety of applications. They can move ratchets, position valves, move switches, change devices, or make connections. The thermal microactuator groups have their own unique advantages. The TIMS can be tailored for the amount of deflection and output force they produce. This will allow them to replace some microactuator arrays and decrease the space used for actuation. The Bi-TEDs and REBAs are bi-directional and can possibly replace two single direction micro-actuators. The JAMESs can be attached directly to a pin joint of an existing mechanism. These advantages allow these thermal microactuator groups to be used for a wide variety of applications.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





MEMS, microelectromechanical systems, compliant micromechanism, compliant mechanism, thermal actuator, microactuator, thermal expansion device, themomechanical inplane micromechanisms, thermal expansion