An actuator is a mechanism for turning energy into motion. 

Actuators can be categorized by the energy source they require to generate motion. For example:

  • Pneumatic actuators use compressed air to generate motion.
  • Hydrolic actuators use liquid to generate motion.
  • Electric actuators use an external power source, such as a battery, to generate motion
  • Thermal actuators use a heat source to generate motion

The data that is generated by sensors and actuators are expected to play an important part in the Internet of Things (IoT).

This tutorial from the SouthWest Center for Microsystems Education explains how actuators work.

This was last updated in September 2015

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valve actuator is a mechanical device that uses a power source to operate a valve. This power source can be electric, pneumatic (compressed air), or hydraulic (the flow of oil). There are two main types of actuators, one for each of the two main types of valves that require them.