Laminated chemical and physical micro-jet actuators based on conductive media

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Gadiraju, Priya D.
Allen, Mark G.
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This dissertation presents the development of electrically-powered, lamination-based microactuators for the realization of large arrays of high impulse and short duration micro-jets with potential applications in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). Microactuators offer unique control opportunities by converting the input electrical or chemical energy stored in a propellant into useful mechanical energy. This small and precise control obtained can potentially be applied towards aerodynamic control and transdermal drug delivery applications. This thesis discusses the development of both chemical and physical microactuators and characterizes their performance with focus towards the feasibility of using them for a specific application. The development of electrically powered microactuators starts by fabricating an array of radially firing microactuators using lamination-based micro fabrication techniques that potentially enable batch fabrication at low cost. The microactuators developed in this thesis consist of three main parts: a micro chamber in which the propellant is stored; two electrode structures through which electrical energy is supplied to the propellant; and a micro nozzle through which the propellant or released gases from the propellant are expanded as a jet. The fabricated actuators are then integrated with MEMS-process-compatible propellants and optimized to produce rapid ignition of the propellant and generate a fluidic jet. This rapid ignition is achieved either by making the propellant itself conductive, thus, passing an electric current directly through the propellant; or by discharging an arc across the propellant by placing it between two closely spaced electrodes. The first concept is demonstrated with chemical microactuators for the application of projectile maneuvering and the second concept is demonstrated with physical microactuators for transdermal drug delivery application. For both the actuators, the propellant integrated microactuators are characterized for performance in terms of impulse delivered, thrust generated and duration of the jet. The experimentally achieved results are validated by comparing with results from theoretical modeling. Finally, the feasibility of using chemical microactuators for maneuvering the path of a 25 mm projectile spinning at 500 Hz is discussed and the feasibility of applying the physical microactuators for increasing skin's permeability to drug analog molecules is studied.
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