Available Technology

Actuators Made From Nanoporous Materials

Actuators convert an external electrical signal into a mechanical force by changing their dimensions. Well-known examples for such devices are piezoelectric actuators where the dimensional changes are caused by the polarization of the whole material. The effect is used in various industrial and scientific applications such as nanopositioning in semiconductor manufacturing, microfluidic motors and valves, etc. Another promising actuator concept relies on charge-induced changes of surface stress. This actuation concept requires the use of high-surface-area materials such as carbon nanotube based materials that have been extensively researched for this application, but that may prove to be too costly and to difficult to load in compression. To make surface-stress-induced actuation a viable technology, one needs a material that, besides an extremely high surface area, is light-weight, mechanically robust, inexpensive, thermally stable, and environmentally friendly, ideally carbon based. Furthermore, inexpensive, large monolithic pieces should available. LLNL has developed such a material using its expertise in sol-gel chemistry and in making highly porous, low-density, lighter-than-air structures that are useful at LLNL in laser target fabrication, energetic composites, sensors, ceramics, and coatings. LLNL has a long history in tailoring the properties of these materials for different applications.
Patent Abstract: 
LLNL has developed novel nanoporous carbon materials for the surface-stress-induced actuator technology. The morphology of these materials has been designed to combine high surface area and mechanical strength.
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
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