Actuated Valve Function: An In-Depth Guide

Welcome to our in-depth guide on the functions of an actuated valve. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the intricacies of actuated valves, a cornerstone of modern industrial processes. These valves are pivotal for controlling fluid flow with precision across a myriad of applications, from water treatment facilities to complex chemical manufacturing processes. 

Understanding the functionality, types, and working principles of actuated valves not only enhances operational efficiency but also bolsters safety and reliability in systems. 

Through this guide, we aim to equip you with essential knowledge, whether you’re a seasoned engineer or new to the field of process automation. Join us as we start with the basics of actuated valves, shedding light on what they are and their fundamental mechanisms.

Understanding Actuated Valves

What is an Actuated Valve?

An actuated valve is an essential component in process automation, designed to regulate the flow of fluids by automatically opening, closing, or modulating the valve mechanism. Unlike manual valves, which require physical operation by a person, actuated valves are driven by an external power source, such as electricity, air, or hydraulic fluid. This enables them to perform critical functions in various industrial settings, where precise control of fluid flow is paramount for efficiency, safety, and environmental compliance.

Basics of Actuated Valves

At the core of actuated valve functionality are two primary operations: open-close and positioning-modulating. These functions are crucial for the diverse requirements of process industries.

Open-Close Functionality

The open-close functionality is straightforward yet vital. It allows the valve to either fully open or fully close, thereby either allowing the maximum flow of fluid through the system or completely stopping it. This binary operation is essential in applications where simple on/off control of the fluid flow is required, such as in water distribution systems or safety shut-off mechanisms.

Positioning and Modulating

Positioning and modulating capabilities take the functionality of actuated valves a step further. Unlike the binary open-close action, these valves can adjust to intermediate positions to regulate the flow rate, pressure, or temperature of the fluid passing through them. This precision control is crucial in processes that require fine-tuning of conditions, such as in chemical reactions, temperature regulation, and proportional flow control in manufacturing processes.

With a clear understanding of what actuated valves are and their basic functionalities, we will next delve into the working principles of these valves. Including an examination of how they operate under different power sources and the mechanisms involved in their operation, starting with how an actuated valve works.

The Working Principle of Actuated Valves

How Does an Actuated Valve Work?

An actuated valve operates by converting energy from a power source into mechanical motion that opens, closes, or modulates the valve. The type of actuator—whether electric, pneumatic, hydraulic, or otherwise—determines the source of this energy and influences the valve’s design and application. 

The actuator mechanism is integral to the valve’s function, responding to control signals from a remote control system or manual input to initiate the action. This automated operation enables precise control over fluid dynamics in an array of industrial processes, enhancing both performance and safety.

Working Mechanisms Explained

To understand the versatility and adaptability of actuated valves across different sectors, it’s crucial to examine the various working mechanisms that enable their operation.

Linear Actuators

Linear actuators generate motion in a straight line to open or close the valve. This type of actuator is commonly used with gate, globe, and diaphragm valves, where linear motion directly affects the valve’s position. The simplicity of linear actuators makes them ideal for operations requiring precise control over the flow rate.

Diaphragm Actuators

Diaphragm actuators utilise a flexible membrane that responds to pressure changes to move the valve stem. This type is often employed in applications requiring sensitive control, as the diaphragm can provide a delicate response to varying pressure levels. They are particularly suitable for use in environments where contamination must be avoided, as the diaphragm can completely separate the actuator from the fluid.

Piston Actuators

Piston actuators work by moving a piston within a cylinder to create linear or rotary motion. The force generated by the piston’s movement is transferred to the valve, allowing for robust and reliable control. Piston actuators are highly effective in applications requiring high force, such as in large valve operations or where high-pressure fluids are controlled.

Spring-Based Actuators

Spring-based actuators employ a spring mechanism to either open or close the valve. These actuators are typically designed to default to an open or closed position in the event of power failure, ensuring a fail-safe operation. This feature is critical in safety-related applications, providing an additional layer of security.

With an understanding of how different actuators power the operation of valves, the next section will explore the types of actuated valves and their applications.

Types of Actuated Valves and Their Applications

Actuated valves come in various types, each suited to specific applications based on the nature of the fluid, the required control precision, and the operational environment. Understanding the distinctions among these valve types is crucial for selecting the most appropriate solution for any given industrial process.

Pneumatic-Actuated Valves

Pneumatic-actuated valves use air pressure to drive the valve mechanism. These valves are prized for their quick response times and reliability in explosive or hazardous environments, as they do not require electricity and thereby reduce the risk of ignition. Pneumatic actuators are commonly used in the oil and gas, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industries, where safety and cleanliness are paramount.

Hydraulic-Actuated Valves

Hydraulic actuators use fluid pressure to move the valve, offering greater force than pneumatic actuators. This makes them ideal for controlling large valves or operating in high-pressure conditions. Hydraulic-actuated valves are often employed in heavy industries, such as mining and construction, where their robustness and high power can be fully leveraged.

Electric-Actuated Valves

Electric-actuated valves are powered by electric motors and are known for their precision and versatility. They can be easily integrated into digital control systems, allowing for precise adjustments and remote operation. This type of valve is suitable for a wide range of applications, from water treatment plants to HVAC systems, where accurate control and feedback are essential.

Self-Actuated Valves

Self-actuated valves automatically respond to changes in pressure or temperature without the need for an external power source. These valves are essential for safety functions, such as pressure relief valves in steam boilers or thermostatic valves in heating systems. Their autonomous operation ensures protection against overpressure or temperature deviations, enhancing system safety.

Solenoid-Actuated Valves

Solenoid-actuated valves are operated by electromagnetic solenoids that change the valve’s position when energised. They are highly effective for on/off control and are commonly used in applications requiring fast and frequent switching. Due to their simplicity and compact size, solenoid valves are widely used in medical devices, irrigation systems, and automated manufacturing processes.

Each type of actuated valve offers distinct advantages and is suitable for specific applications. Understanding these nuances enables engineers and system designers to select the most appropriate valve type, ensuring optimal performance and reliability within any application.

In the conclusion of our guide, we will wrap up the key points covered and reflect on the importance of selecting the right actuated valve for enhancing system efficiency and safety.


Throughout this guide, we’ve explored the intricate world of actuated valves, from their basic principles and functionalities to the various types and their applications across different industries. 

Actuated valves serve as the linchpins in process automation, offering precise control over fluid dynamics that is crucial for operational efficiency, safety, and environmental compliance.

We began by defining actuated valves and their primary functions, highlighting the importance of open-close functionality and positioning-modulating capabilities. This set the stage for a deeper dive into the working principles of actuated valves, where we examined how different types of actuators—linear, diaphragm, piston, and spring-based—power these essential components.

Our exploration then transitioned to the diverse types of actuated valves, including pneumatic, hydraulic, electric, self-actuated, and solenoid-actuated valves. Each type has been designed to meet specific operational needs, from rapid response and safety in hazardous environments to precision control and autonomous operation in response to environmental changes.

Fluid-Air Components stands at the forefront of supplying actuated valves, offering a broad spectrum of options suited to diverse industrial requirements. Our commitment to quality, backed by technical expertise and a comprehensive product range, enables us to tailor solutions that meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. 

Whether your application demands the robustness of hydraulic actuators or the precision of electric actuators, our expert sales team is always on hand to provide insightful recommendations and support. Get in touch to discuss your upcoming requirements and how we can help you in selecting the right actuator for your application.