Dielectric Elastomers (DE) represent an attractive technology in the field of electromechanical transducers for the realization of low cost actuators and sensors. These devices consist of a thin DE membrane with flexible electrodes resulting in a stretchable capacitor. An electrical field, applied by the electrodes causes a thickness reduction due to the dielectric forces in the membrane resulting in a mechanical output. The actuator performance strongly depends on the material properties of the membrane, especially permittivity and breakdown field strength. To characterize the enhanced materials developed by current researches a reproducible testing method is needed. This work presents the development, realization and validation of a scientific test stand to investigate the electrical breakdown in dielectric elastomer films under different environmental conditions. The presented test setup allows the study of various film thicknesses at comparable conditions. Exchangeable electrode tips allow the research of different electrical field distribution induced by the electrode geometry. A fine adjustable contact pressure ensures a defined mechanical contact with the film surface while creating minimal film thickness deformation in a repeatable manner. Furthermore, this enables to research the influence of the contact pressure on the electrical breakdown field strength. An exchangeable specimen frame offers easy film preparation with different pre-stretch strains and spatial resolved thickness measurements in preparation of the breakdown test. To allow the characterization of the film under different ambient conditions the test stand is placed in a climate chamber controlling ambient temperature and humidity. A remote-controlled servo motor allows spatial resolved breakdown voltage measurements resulting in combination with the local thickness measurements in a breakdown field strength.
Felix Welsch, Bettina Fasolt, and Stefan Seelecke, "Dielectric breakdown test setup for dielectric elastomers: design and validation," Proc. SPIE 10594, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) XX, 105941A (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 08, 2018; Published: 27 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2296995.
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