2007 NSTI Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show - Nanotech 2007 - 10th Annual

The Miniaturization of Flow Control by MEMS Valves

J. Uibel, M. Luckevich and S. Kumar
Microstaq Inc, US


As technologies and products are developed and refined there is a general tendency toward miniaturization. Fluid flow control is certainly no exception and a new MEMS control valve technology has been developed that is applicable to low and mid-range fluid control. Similar to the development of electrical circuitry from vacuum tubes and relays to the integrated chip, control valves have now with this technology transitioned from solenoids to MEMS with micron sized features to reduce size and weight and to further enable control valve system integration. The MEMS micro valve is able to control fluid flow by using a pressure balanced plate-type valve where the plate position is controlled by the thermal expansion and contraction of ribs that conduct electrical power. Direct acting and pilot/spool configurations can be used depending on required flow rates. The MEMS valve has been shown to control fluid flow at pressures in excess of 2,000 psi and with flow rates comparable to many solenoid valves. Integration with sensors and electronics has also been shown to miniaturize the control valve system in ways that are unavailable in solenoid control valves. While MEMS valve performance is comparable to common solenoid valves in terms of fluid flow, the valve’s size, weight, and system integration characteristics provide an effective way to miniaturize many of the control valves, and related components, in today’s fluidic circuits.

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