Electrostatic actuator

DIY Electrostatic actuator on the cheap

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This project aim to make a cheap and easily replicable proof of concept for "human" scale actuator driven by high voltage. In the comming weeks I will be experimenting different design to achieve a usable linear actuator for robotic.

 Actually most of the electrostatic actuator are found in MEMS component. Their more easily applicable at small scale because the force depend directly of the distance between the plate. But this can be overthrow by the use of higher voltage.
For this purpose I use some cheap chineese DC boost sold as taser module. The are generally rated for 130 to 800 kV (but are in reality closer to 10-60 Kv) and cost around 5 bucks. Another issue with electrostatic actuator is the dielectric and the possilitie of dielectric breakdown. But this was aldready solved by the team behind this papaer : (DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6139) (It's on ScienceHub for free). They used a liquid dielectric (oil). But they don't mention the High voltage power supply they used thus the use of chineese DC Boost.

I came with two design. the first one require only the things I could find in my kitchen ( platic bag, aluminium foil, sunflower oil, white glue, a few centimeter of wire and a soldering iron.) The second one is a bit more advanced and use a 3D printed shell. 

I realised their was only one day left for the robotic module challenge while i'm posting this So I rushed the realisation to prove it work. I will the refine design in the comming weeks when my exams will be over.


The inventor file of the case

ipt - 141.50 kB - 06/03/2018 at 14:05



The inventor file of the comb

ipt - 143.50 kB - 06/03/2018 at 14:05


Actuateur electrostatique.iam

The inventor file for the assembly of the actuator

iam - 75.50 kB - 06/03/2018 at 14:05



The stl file of the case

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 8.09 kB - 06/03/2018 at 14:05



The stl file of the comb

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 7.70 kB - 06/03/2018 at 14:05


  • 1 × DC Boost DC boost that convert 3-12V to 100 - 800 kV
  • 1 × White glue a bit of glue
  • 1 × power supply A lithium cell is enough for the POC
  • 2 × aluminium foil Commo aluminium foil found in the kitchen
  • 2 × plastic bag a normal plastic bag

View all 7 components

  • new shot at the idea

    Nathann06/15/2022 at 19:29 0 comments

    so far my attempt where mainly trying to make usable linear actuator by stacking pouch that can contract.

    but this might not be super efficient as you need to have a lot of high voltage circuitry to drive each pouch.

    a better approach might be to use the pouch as a compressor to put under pressure the oil and use more standard hydraulic muscle driven by the pouch. This allows some flexibility by using a flexible tube to route the fluid where needed.

    i had no epoxy glue at the time nor sturdy elastomer sheet but my workshop improved a bit over the years. The new design would probably be a watertight pouch containing a sponge and one aluminum sheet on each side. The sponge would act as a spring to pump back the fluid once the voltage is removed.

    The second advantage of that design being that the force due to the accumulating charge on the capacitor plate increase as the plate get closer. The springy sponge would counteract that to allow for a smoother operation. They would be conceived similarly to these kind of pressure wedge 

    since i got slightly better at math, here are the formula i needed :

    actually putting in some numbers (50 Kv, 5mm distance, void dielectric constant we get pressure around 2Pa... we would need some kind of hydraulic lever to convert that to a usable force but thats a start

  • Ditched the alu foil for some conductive ink

    Nathann09/08/2018 at 10:49 0 comments

    Okay, some time have passed since the last post. I've gave the idea of using aluminium foil on the 3D printed version. I tried to make some conductive ink but it was a total failure. I will try to a new batch in the futur and coat the print with it. I hope that conductive coating will help and we will have some kind of movement.

  • The Force

    Nathann06/03/2018 at 15:55 0 comments

    This is how I believe the force are distributed in the new design. I have no idea of how to compute this but I assume it work because MEMS electro actuator are following that design. I'll be glad if someone know how to do math for this.

  • The raw idea

    Nathann06/03/2018 at 14:05 0 comments

    I made the first prototype in a quick and dirty version.

    I designed a second one that is currently being 3D printed but It won't be finished by the end of the contest... This one replace the plastic bag with a more optimised geometry. It will be watertight and filled with oil like the first prototype. Calcute the force in first configuration is quite easy but I don't have the mathematical knowledge to calculate it in the 3D printed one. (if someone have a few minutes to spend explaining me how to do It I would really appreciate It)

View all 4 project logs

  • 1
    Prepare the material

    First you will need to find a few component to replicate this experiment.

    you need a soldering iron, some solder, a few centimeters of wire, a High Voltage DC power source (DC Boost sold as taser module). some glue, a bottle of oil, a bunch of plastic bag and some Aluminium foil, A scissor or a scalpel to cut the aluminium is recommended.

  • 2
    Cut the aluminium foil

    cut two aluminium square of aluminium.

  • 3
    Solder the WIre

    solder one of the wire on a corner of every aluminium foil.

    Be careful not to melt the plastic bag, wait for the aluminium to cool down before making the next step

View all 9 instructions

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