A thermal actuator for nanoscale in situ microscopy testing: Design and characterization

Yong Zhu*, Alberto Corigliano, Horacio D. Espinosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Scopus citations


This paper addresses the design and optimization of thermal actuators employed in a novel MEMS-based material testing system. The testing system is designed to measure the mechanical properties of a variety of materials/structures from thin films to one-dimensional structures, e.g. carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and nanowires (NWs). It includes a thermal actuator and a capacitive load sensor with a specimen in-between. The thermal actuator consists of a number of V-shaped beams anchored at both ends. It is capable of generating tens of milli-Newton force and a few micrometers displacement depending on the beams' angle and their number. Analytical expressions of the actuator thermomechanical response are derived and discussed. From these expressions, a number of design criteria are drawn and used to optimize the device response. The analytical predictions are compared with both finite element multiphysics analysis (FEA) and experiments. To demonstrate the actuator performance, polysilicon freestanding specimens cofabricated with the testing system are tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-253
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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