Microvalves are used when the priorities are small size, low weight, and low energy requirements. These are precisely the trump cards that microtechnology can play.
We develop application-specific microvalves and micro-pump types that area among the building blocks of microfluidics. In addition to traditional valve concepts, we also investigate innovative, non-conventional valve mechanisms, e.g. on the basis of electro-active polymers.
We are particularly proud of the MegaMic microvalve that is suitable for outer space applications, that was developed jointly with the pneumatic systems manufacturer, Hoerbiger‐Origa‐Systems GmbH, to be used on-board the 2004 European space mission Rosetta. After a long journey several microvalves reached the comet, 67P/Tschurjumow-Gerasimenko, in November 2014 as part of the landing probe Philae. After arriving there, finely-dosed gases of the comet are pumped into a gas chromatograph to answer the question of whether the core of the comet contains organic molecules – i.e. the components of life – and shed light on the question of whether comets once brought life to the earth. With the size of a sugar cube and a weight of four grams, the micro-valve inside consists of a silicon body several centimeters in size, which contains an extremely thin membrane. It is activated directly via logic signals and is switched through electrostatic voltage. The membrane moves only one five-thousandth of a millimeter and thus releases the inlets and outlets. It is practically wear-free, and depending on the configuration level, can allow between a half-liter and 50 liters of gas to flow through it per minute.