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Publication# Rise time reduction of thermal actuators operated in air and water through optimized pre-shaped open-loop driving

Abstract

Electrothermal actuators have many advantages compared to other actuators used in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). They are simple to design, easy to fabricate and provide large displacements at low voltages. Low voltages enable less stringent passivation requirements for operation in liquid. Despite these advantages, thermal actuation is typically limited to a few kHz bandwidth when using step inputs due to its intrinsic thermal time constant. However, the use of pre-shaped input signals offers a route for reducing the rise time of these actuators by orders of magnitude. We started with an electrothermally actuated cantilever having an initial 10–90% rise time of 85 μs in air and 234 μs in water for a standard open-loop step input. We experimentally characterized the linearity and frequency response of the cantilever when operated in air and water, allowing us to obtain transfer functions for the two cases. We used these transfer functions, along with functions describing desired reduced rise-time system responses, to numerically simulate the required input signals. Using these pre-shaped input signals, we improved the open-loop 10–90% rise time from 85 μs to 3 μs in air and from 234 μs to 5 μs in water, an improvement by a factor of 28 and 47, respectively. Using this simple control strategy for MEMS electrothermal actuators makes them an attractive alternative to other high speed micromechanical actuators such as piezoelectric stacks or electrostatic comb structures which are more complex to design, fabricate, or operate.

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Related concepts (32)

Related publications (33)

Rise time

In electronics, when describing a voltage or current step function, rise time is the time taken by a signal to change from a specified low value to a specified high value. These values may be expressed as ratios or, equivalently, as percentages with respect to a given reference value. In analog electronics and digital electronics, these percentages are commonly the 10% and 90% (or equivalently 0.1 and 0.9) of the output step height: however, other values are commonly used.

Transfer function

In engineering, a transfer function (also known as system function or network function) of a system, sub-system, or component is a mathematical function that models the system's output for each possible input. They are widely used in electronic engineering tools like circuit simulators and control systems. In some simple cases, this function can be represented as two-dimensional graph of an independent scalar input versus the dependent scalar output, called a transfer curve or characteristic curve.

Step response

The step response of a system in a given initial state consists of the time evolution of its outputs when its control inputs are Heaviside step functions. In electronic engineering and control theory, step response is the time behaviour of the outputs of a general system when its inputs change from zero to one in a very short time. The concept can be extended to the abstract mathematical notion of a dynamical system using an evolution parameter.

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