This paper presents the design and experimental characterization of a binary jet valve, specifically developed to control an all-polymer needle manipulator during intramagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) prostate interventions (biopsies and brachytherapies). The key feature of the MRI-compatible valve is its compact dual-stage configuration. The first stage is composed of a low-friction jet nozzle, driven by a small rotary dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA). The second stage provides sufficient air flow and stability for the binary robotic application through an independent air supply, activated by a bistable spool. A hyperelastic stress-strain model is used to optimize the geometrical dimensions of the DEA jet assembly. Fully functional valve prototypes, made with 3M's VHB 4905 films, are monitored with a high-speed camera in order to quantify the system's shifting dynamics. The impact of nozzle clearance, dielectric elastomer film viscoelasticity, mechanical friction, and actuator torque generation on overall dynamic behavior of two different valve setups is discussed. Results show an overall shifting time of 200–300 ms when the friction of the nozzle and DEA actuation stretches are minimized. Low shifting time combined with compactness, simplicity, and low cost suggest that the low friction DEA-driven jet valves have great potential for switching a large number of pneumatic circuits in an MRI environment as well as in traditional pneumatic applications.

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