Conductive grease and powder are commonly applied as compliant electrodes for dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs).
Unfortunately, they can be rubbed off easily and DEAs based on them cannot self-heal from localised electrical
breakdowns. Metallic thin films are cleaner and more resilient alternatives for electrodes. They are currently widely used
in metalized plastic capacitors, which are known for their self-healing capability. However, they are not widely used in
DEAs due to limitations in strain. In this paper, we demonstrate that a metalized DEA is capable of areal strains of up to
21%. The inexpensive and simple method of electroless silver deposition had been used to create the electrodes for the
single-layer DEA. The lightly pre-stretched 80μm thick dielectric film demonstrated a 21% areal strain, which is a 17%
reduction in thickness, with an applied voltage of 2.5kV. Self-healing properties of the silver electrodes have also been
observed. Localised breakdowns of the dielectric film self-healed, thereby averting electrical breakdown and allowing
actuation to continue, even at higher applied voltages. With higher breakdown voltages, larger breakdown fields were
obtained, which would in turn lead to greater electrostatic forces. Relatively high breakdown fields of up to 75 MV/m
were obtained. This is in contrast to the 35 MV/m obtained by silver grease under the same conditions. In mechanical
strain tests, the silver films remained conductive while subjected to a uni-axial mechanical strain of up to 50%, which
ascertains the ability of such electrodes to sustain high strains.