This paper addresses two issues related to in-plane, electro-thermal actuators for BioMEMS applications. First, in order to protect the actuator from biological debris and particulates, a packaging technique using a flip-chip bonded polysilicon cap is demonstrated. The encapsulated actuator transmits motion outside the package via a piston, which moves through a small clearance. The second issue addressed is the reduction in efficiency of the thermal actuator in liquids. By coating the packaged actuator with a thin conformal hydrophobic layer via an atomic layer deposition (ALD) process, the liquid is prevented from entering the encapsulation. This avoids direct contact between the actuator and the surrounding liquid thereby improving its efficiency. The unpackaged and packaged actuators were tested in both air and de-ionized water. Although the packaging resulted in a reduction in the performance of the thermal actuator in air, the actuation efficiency in water was significantly improved due to the isolation of the hot arms from the liquid. This packaging technique is also applicable to other MEMS devices and in-plane actuators such as electrostatic comb drives for engineering as well as biological applications.

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