The University of Southampton

Thick-film magnetostrictive actuators for MEMS

Sensor Technology

The field of smart sensor technology continues to mature both in terms of the advances in the characteristics of the sensing elements themselves and also the electronic processing of data. The area of MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) is a relatively new field for making miniature sensors and actuators using integrated circuit (IC) fabrication and related techniques. A majority of existing MEMS research has concentrated on sensors but the recent interest in areas such as microfluidics has broadened the field to cover micro-actuators. Research at the University of Southampton into thick-film piezoelectric materials has shown that a combination of both silicon micromachining and thick-film techniques can offer a new approach to MEMS strategies.One of the drawbacks of piezoelectric materials for actuator applications is that a relatively large (several hundred volts) excitation voltage is required This limits its use in some applications, particularly in the medical field. An alternative type of actuator is based on the magnetostrictive effect. Modern-day magnetostrictive materials such as Terfenol-D, posses very large magnetostrictive coefficients, producing much greater displacements than their piezoelectric counterparts for a given input power Another potential advantage is that magnetostrictive actuators can be driven by external magnetic fields, thus removing the need for large driving voltages. Untill now, however, there has been no published work on thick-film magnetostrictive materials. The main aim of this proposal, therefore, is to develop and characterise a thick-film magnetostrictive material for use in MEMS applications. It is envisaged that the evolutionary steps in this process will be similar to those experienced with the formulation of our thick-film piezoelectric materials. The combination of thick-film and silicon technologies will therefore lead to a powerful and economic solution for new types of MEMS actuator.

Primary investigator

Secondary investigator


  • Newlands Scientific Plc

Associated research groups

  • Electronic Systems and Devices Group
  • Electronics and Electrical Engineering
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