Due to its thermally driven structural phase transition, vanadium dioxide (VO2) has emerged as a promising material for micro/nano-actuators with superior volumetric work density, actuation amplitude, and repetition frequency. However, the high initial curvature of VO2 actuators severely obstructs the actuation performance and application. Here, we introduce a “seesaw” method of fabricating tri-layer cantilevers to compensate for the residual stress and realize nearly arbitrary curvature control of VO2 actuators. By simply adjusting the thicknesses of the individual layers, cantilevers with positive, zero, or negative curvatures can be engineered. The actuation amplitude can be decoupled from the curvature and controlled independently as well. Based on the experimentally measured residual stresses, we demonstrate sub-micron thick VO2 actuators with nearly zero final curvature and a high actuation amplitude simultaneously. This “seesaw” method can be further extended to the curvature engineering of other microelectromechanical system multi-layer structures where large stress-mismatch between layers are inevitable.

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