A diaphragm pump driven by a piezoelectric actuator is undergoing development. This pump is intended to be a prototype of lightweight, highly reliable pumps for circulating cooling liquids in protective garments and high-power electronic circuits, and perhaps for some medical applications. The pump would be highly reliable because it would contain no sliding seals or bearings that could wear, the only parts subject to wear would be two check valves, and the diaphragm and other flexing parts could be designed, by use of proven methods, for extremely long life. Because the pump would be capable of a large volumetric flow rate and would have only a small dead volume, its operation would not be disrupted by ingestion of gas, and it could be started reliably under all conditions.
The prior art includes a number piezoelectrically actuated diaphragm pumps. Because of the smallness of the motions of piezoelectric actuators (typical maximum strains only about 0.001), the volumetric flow rates of those pumps are much too small for typical cooling applications. In the pump now undergoing development, mechanical resonance would be utilized to amplify the motion generated by the piezoelectric actuator and thereby multiply the volumetric flow rate.
The prime mover in this pump would be a stack of piezoelectric ceramic actuators, one end of which would be connected to a spring that would be part of a spring-and-mass resonator structure. The "mass" part of the resonator structure would include the pump diaphragm (see Figure 1). Contraction of the spring would draw the diaphragm to the left, causing the volume of the fluid chamber to increase and thereby causing fluid to flow into the chamber. Subsequent expansion of the spring would push the diaphragm to the right, causing the volume of the fluid chamber to decrease, and thereby expelling fluid from the chamber. The fluid would enter and leave the chamber through check valves.