Linear electrostatic actuators: Gap maintenance via fluid bearings

J. Edward Colgate*, Hirofumi Matsumoto, Witaya Wannasuphoprasit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper addresses a novel actuator for manufacturing applications, the "electrostatic artificial muscle." Artificial muscle is composed of a dense array of small linear actuators. Its promise lies in the prospect of high performance (e.g. higher force-to-weight ratio and peak acceleration than a comparable magnetic motor), clean, quiet operation, and design versatility (especially the elimination of transmissions in many applications). The characteristics of artificial muscle are particularly appealing for applications in robotics and high-speed automation. A model of a linear electrostatic induction motor is presented to illustrate the potential for high performance as well as the difficulty of "gap maintenance." Gap maintenance refers to the demanding task of preserving a uniform, narrow gap between "slider" and stator in the presence of destabilizing electrostatic forces. A novel approach to gap maintenance, the use of dielectric fluid bearings, is presented. Analysis of a simple, 2-D motor model shows that gap maintenance and motor efficiency may be characterized by two nondimensional parameters: a levitation number, and a gap aspect ratio. It is shown that achieving both low-speed levitation and high efficiency requires long, narrow gaps (high aspect ratio). The results of this analysis are extended to a more complex model featuring an unconstrained, rigid slider. An experimental study of fluid bearings is also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-376
Number of pages12
JournalRobotics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Software
  • General Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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