Nano-Electrokinetic Actuator Array Technology for Propulsion, and Flow Control for Underwater Vehicles

Invention Summary:

Nano Electrokinetic actuators are a novel propulsion method for underwater vehicles. Of significant relevance is the ability to create faster more maneuverable underwater vehicles. These novel actuators operate on a fundamentally different principle from the traditional actuator technologies used to date. The technology takes advantage of electro-osmosis to enable fluid pumping using electric fields. The application is extensively used in micro fluidic devices.

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a new class of fluid micro/nano actuators with superior performance characteristics. Specific performance characteristics include a greater force and displacement rate as well as lower power requirements. In these systems operationally longevity comes at the cost of battery size or lower performance requirements. The lower power requirement for the actuation system frees up more operational life for critical components such as sensors. Additionally the lack of moving parts allows the system to be highly robust, silent, and reliable.

Market Applications:

  • Underwater Vehicles
    • Torpedoes
    • AUVs
    • Micro-AUVs
  • Individually addressable thrusters
  • Volume source ( low E-Field)
  • Micro-jets (high E-Field)
  • Flow control and drag reduction by controlling boundary layer
  • Energy source


  • Superior force and displacement rate
  • Better frequency response
  • Lower power requirement
  • No moving parts
  • Highly robust to environment
  • Can produce high pressure
  • Porous polymers and non-traditional MEMS/NEMS can be used for fabrication
  • Scalable from mm to m

Intellectual Property & Development Status:

Patent pending

Patent Information:
ID: 2012-012

Francisco DieZ-Garias
For Information, Contact:
Dan Benderly
Licensing Manager
Rutgers University