Electrically Programmable Microscale Surface Oxide Memory Actuators

Abstract: The proposed invention represents a new class of voltage-controllable electrochemical actuators that operate at low voltage, low power and are completely compatible with silicon processing. These shape-memory actuators have the potential to enable the realization of adaptive microscale structures, bio-implantable devices, and microscopic robots.


The proposed surface electrochemical actuator (SEA) platform enables atomically thin 2D material to fold itself into 3D configurations with a quick jolt of voltage (<1 V). Once the material is bent, it holds its shape for hours in the absence of applied voltages, minimizing the power consumption. These actuators can bend to the smallest radius of curvature of any electrically controlled micro-actuator (~500 nm), which reduces footprint for microscopic robots and machines. Not only are they able to fold themselves fast(<100-ms operation), these micro-machines can also flatten and refold themselves thousands of times. These shape-memory actuators can be used to create basic electrically reconfigurable microscale robot elements including actuating surfaces, origami-based 3D shapes, morphing metamaterials, and mechanical memory elements.

Potential Applications

  • Small scale grippers, legs, pumps or other body parts for microsurgery manipulation devices
  • Integration with microelectronic circuits and sensors for design and fabrication of microscopic robots

Other Information

  • Compatibility with silicon-processing allows for mass-manufactured, silicon-based, functional micro-robots
  • Low-voltage actuation (200 mV) and low power (10 nW) with shape memory
  • High flexibility with ultrahigh curvature
  • Significant force output (nN)
  • Robustness (thousands of cycles, stable in temperatures exceeding 300°C and strong acids/bases)


Name : Martin Teschl

Email : mt439@cornell.edu

Phone : (607) 254-4454