We are pulling together climate related resources.

Vanadium Dioxide Microactuators

Stage: Prototype

Berkeley Lab researchers Junqiao Wu, Kai Liu, and Kevin Wang have developed a powerful new microscale actuator that simultaneously achieves high amplitude, high work output, and high speed in both air and water. In fact, this technology is the first to exceed performance limits in amplitude, force, and speed of standard microactuators and piezoelectric devices.

The Berkeley Lab microactuator is made of bimorph structures based on vanadium dioxide, an advanced material that responds to heat, electric current, and light. In both ambient and aqueous conditions, the actuators bend with exceedingly high

  • displacement-to-length ratios, on the order of 1 in the sub-100 μm length scale, and
  • work densities, 0.63 - 7.0 J/cm3,

at frequencies up to 6 kHz.

Microactuators are essential for converting external stimuli, such as heat, electricity, and light, into mechanical motion in such advanced technologies as MEMS and artificial muscles. The Berkeley Lab technology’s integrated designs of two- or three-dimensional geometries are customizable for these applications as well as for microfluidics used in drug delivery systems.

Applications and Industries

  • Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)
  • Microrobotics
  • Microfluidics
  • Drug delivery
  • Artificial muscles
  • Smart and adaptive materials


  • High amplitude, high speed, and high force actuation
  • Operates in ambient or aqueous conditions
  • Energy efficient
  • Made of nontoxic and abundant materials
  • High stability and durability
  • Easily scalable and customizable