Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

A Latching Thermopneumatic Microvalve for Ultra-low Power Applications

Technology #2598

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Kensall D. Wise
Managed By
Joohee Kim
Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-764-8202
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending


Microvalves control fluid flow in fluidics systems, and have improved control in applications where the significant power demands of a macro-scale valve would not be suitable. While microvalves offer unique advantages over their larger counterparts, such as decreased dead volume that allow faster response times, there is room for improvement in both power consumption and response time, as well as other valve performance parameters and fabrication considerations.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a microvalve device that decreases power consumption without complex design and fabrication process. The new microvalve consumes power only during valve displacement or transition from one stable state to another stable state. This ultra-low power consumption and bi-stable microvalve functionality are achieved by combining the advantages of thermal-based actuator and the benefits of electrostatic latching. To enhance efficiency, an integrated sensor accurately determines when power should be supplied to the actuator such that the power is consumed only during the transition. In addition, an insulated cavity prevents unnecessary heating of the device outside of the actuation mechanism to minimize power consumption.

Applications and Advantages


  • fluidic systems including microfluidic devices


  • ultra-low power consumption
  • high force, small size, large valve throw, and relatively fast response times