Dielectric elastomers actuators (DEA) are a class of electroactive polymers which work based on inducing of deformation with an electric field, which was demonstrated in 1880 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen by spraying charges on a piece of natural rubber (Röntgen 1880). A common design of DEAs is to sandwich a soft insulating elastomer membrane between two compliant electrodes. When a voltage is applied between the electrodes, the arising electric field causes a decrease in thickness and increase in area of the membrane (Pelrine 2000, Suo 2010).
Actuation strains of up to 1692% (Keplinger 2012) have been achieved and a theoretical maximum energy density of 1.4 J/g (Koh 2009) was calculated. DEAs, also called artificial muscles, can be used to create diverse devices such as a linear actuator and a fish-like blimp.
DEAs behave like deformable capacitors and can therefore also be used for energy generation (Pelrine 2001). The following video shows a dielectric elastomer that is used to power LEDs:
This documentation set contains files and instructions to support the design, fabrication, modeling, and testing of a specific Dielectric Elastomer Actuator. We also provide other examples of ways DEAs have been used, including a transparent loudspeaker in our Case Studies page. While we focus on a particular example of a DEA, the principles and guidelines presented here can be adapted to produce a wide range of dielectric elastomer actuators and devices using them.
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