New type of microengine using internal combustion of hydrogen and oxygen
Vitaly B. Svetovoy1,2, Remco G. P. Sanders1, Kechun Ma1 & Miko C. Elwenspoek1,3
1MESA1 Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, PO 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands, 2Institute of Physics and Technology, Yaroslavl Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, 150007, Yaroslavl, Russia, 3FRIAS, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
Microsystems become part of everyday life but their application is restricted by lack of strong and fast motors (actuators) converting energy into motion. For example, widespread internal combustion engines cannot be scaled down because combustion reactions are quenched in a small space. Here we present an actuator with the dimensions 100 x 100 x 5µm3 that is using internal combustion of hydrogen and oxygen as part of its working cycle. Water electrolysis driven by short voltage pulses creates an extra pressure of 0.5– 4 bar for a time of 100–400 µs in a chamber closed by a flexible membrane. When the pulses are switched off this pressure is released even faster allowing production of mechanical work in short cycles. We provide arguments that this unexpectedly fast pressure decrease is due to spontaneous combustion of the gases in the chamber. This actuator is the first step to truly microscopic combustion engines.