Dielectric elastomer transducers (DETs) have attracted interest as actuators, sensors, and even as self-sensing actuators for applications in medicine, soft robotics, and microfluidics. To reach strains of more than 10 %, they currently require operating voltages of several hundred volts. In medical applications for artificial muscles, however, their operation is limited to a very few tens of volts, which implies high permittivity materials and thin-film structures. Such micro- or nanostructures can be prepared using electro-spraying, a cost-effective technique that allows upscaling using multiple nozzles for the fabrication of silicone films down to nanometer thickness. Deposition rates of several micrometers per hour have already been reached. It has been recently demonstrated that such membranes can be fabricated by electro-spraying and subsequent ultraviolet light irradiation. Herein, we introduce a relatively fast deposition of a dimethyl silicone copolymer fluid that contains mercaptopropyl side chains in addition to the methyl groups. Its elastic modulus was tuned with the irradiation dose of the 200 W Hg-Xe lamp. We also investigated the formation of elastomer films, using polymer concentrations in ethyl acetate of 1, 2, 5 and 10 vol%. After curing, the surface roughness was measured by means of atomic force microscopy. This instrument also enabled us to determine the average elastic modulus out of, for example, 400 nanoindentation measurements, using a spherical tip with a radius of 500 nm. The elastomer films were cured for a period of less than one minute, a speed that makes it feasible to combine electro-spraying and in situ curing in a single process step for fabricating low-voltage, multilayer DETs.
Bekim Osmani, Tino Töpper, Matej Siketanc, Gabor M. Kovacs, and Bert Müller, "Electrospraying and ultraviolet light curing of nanometer-thin polydimethylsiloxane membranes for low-voltage dielectric elastomer transducers," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 101631E (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 28, 2017; Published: 17 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2258214.
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