Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) are often referred to as artificial muscles due to their high specific continuous power, which is comparable to that of human skeletal muscles, and because of their millisecond response time. We intend to use nanometer-thin DEA as medical implant actuators and sensors to be operated at voltages as low as a few tens of volts. The conductivity of the electrode and the impact of its stiffness on the stacked structure are key to the design and operation of future devices. The stiffness of sputtered Au electrodes on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) was characterized using AFM nanoindentation techniques. 2500 nanoindentations were performed on 10 x 10 μm2 regions at loads of 100 to 400 nN using a spherical tip with a radius of (522 ± 2) nm. Stiffness maps based on the Hertz model were calculated using the Nanosurf Flex-ANA system. The low adhesion of Au to PDMS has been reported in the literature and leads to the formation of Au-nanoclusters. The size of the nanoclusters was (25 ± 10) nm and can be explained by the low surface energy of PDMS leading to a Volmer-Weber growth mode. Therefore, we propose (3-mercaptopropyl)trimethoxysilane (MPTMS) as a molecular adhesive to promote the adhesion between the PDMS and Au electrode. A beneficial side effect of these self-assembling monolayers is the significant improvement of the electrode’s conductivity as determined by four-point probe measurements. Therefore, the application of a soft adhesive layer for building a dielectric elastomer actuator appears promising.
Bekim Osmani, Hans Deyhle, Florian M. Weiss, Tino Töpper, Maria Karapetkova, Vanessa Leung, and Bert Müller, "Morphology and conductivity of Au films on polydimethylsiloxane using (3-mercaptopropyl)trimethoxysilane (MPTMS) as an adhesion promoter," Proc. SPIE 9798, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2016, 979822 (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 24, 2016; Published: 15 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2219199.
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