This paper deals with the design and analysis of a horizontal thermal actuator common in MEMS applications using Finite Element Analysis; with the objective of exploring means to improve its sensitivity. The influence of variables like voltage and the dimensions of the cold arm of the actuator unit were examined by comprehensive, coupled thermal-stress analyses. Simulation results from this study showed that the sensitivity of the actuator increases with the applied voltage as well as the width of the cold arm of the thermal actuator. An important observation made from this study is that the size and thermal boundary conditions at the fixed end of the actuator primarily control the stroke and the operating temperature of the actuator for a given potential difference between cold and hot arms. The coupled field analyses also provided a design tool for maximizing the service voltage and dimensional variables without compromising the thermal or structural integrity of the actuator.

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