Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

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 designfabricationmodeling, 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.

Some of the information contained in this web site includes intellectual property covered by both issued and pending patent applications. It is intended solely for research, educational and scholarly purposes by not-for-profit research organizations. If you have interest in specific technologies for commercial applications, please contact us here.