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Reported presently are two designs to improve the performance of a “chevron” electro-thermal in-plane actuator. One incorporates beams with uniform cross-sections but nonuniform lengths and tilt angles to accommodate the thermally induced expansion of the “shuttle”; the other incorporates beams with non-uniform cross-sections to achieve a wider spread of the high temperature “expansion” regions of the beams. With the product of the actuation force and displacement defined as a figure-of-merit, it is verified using finite-element simulation that the incorporation of non-uniform lengths and tilt angles, and non-uniform beam cross-sections leads to respective improvement of 10 and 65% in the figure-of-merit. The effectiveness of these designs was also tested by micro-fabricating actuators occupying fixed device areas.