Previous research has demonstrated promise for the use of dielectric elastomer (DE) films in diaphragm pump applications. Because the films tend to be quite thin, single layers operate at very low pressures. To make this technology suitable for practical applications, the films may be organized into laminates which will operate at increased pressures. Radially stretched circular diaphragms of two materials were tested: 3M VHB 4905 polyacrylate and spin-cast Nusil CF19-2186 silicone. The diaphragms were stacked, each layer sharing an electrode with the adjacent layer. The stack was mounted on a sealed chamber and energized at varied electric fields while regulated pressure was applied to the interior chamber, displacing the diaphragm. The pressure-volume properties of the stacks were recorded for each activation state.
The electromechanical behavior of dielectric elastomers is to be exploited for medical application in artificial blood pumps. It is required that the pump diaphragm achieves a swept volume increase of 70 cc into a systolic pressure of 120 mmHg with the main design objective being volumetric efficiency. As such, a model that accommodates large deformation behavior is used. In order to design prosthetic blood pumps that closely mimic the natural pumping chambers of the heart, a dielectric elastomer diaphragm design is proposed. The elastomer's change in shape in response to the applied electric field will permit it to be the active element of the pump just as the ventricular walls are in the natural heart. A comprehensive analytical model that accounts for the combined elastic and dielectric behavior of the membrane is used to compute the stresses and deformations of the inflated membrane. Dielectric elastomers are often pre-strained in order to obtain optimal electromechanical performance. The resulting model incorporates pre-strain and shows how system parameters such as pre-strain, pressure, electric field, and edge constraints affect membrane deformation. The model predicts more than adequate volume displacement for moderate pre-strain of the elastomer.
With the ultimate goal of constructing diaphragm-type pumps, we have measured pressure-volume characteristics of single-layer dielectric elastomers diaphragms. Circular dielectric elastomer diaphragms were prepared by biaxial stretching of 3M VHB 4905 polyacrylate, or spin casting and modest or no biaxial stretching of silicone rubber films, followed by mounting to a sealed chamber having a 3.8 cm diameter opening. Pressure-volume characteristics were measured at voltages that provided field strengths up to 80 MV/m in un-deformed VHB films and 50-75 MV/m in silicone films. The most highly pre-strained VHB diaphragms were found to have linear pressure-volume characteristics whose slopes (diaphragm compliance) depended sensitively upon applied field at higher field strengths. Compliance of unstretched silicone diaphragms was nearly independent of field strength at the fields tested, but pressure-volume characteristics shifted markedly. For both kinds of dielectric elastomers, pressure-volume work loops of significant size can be obtained for certain operating pressures. Each type of diaphragm may have advantages in certain applications.
The popularity of minimally invasive surgical procedures over traditional open procedures motivates us to develop new instruments that address the limits of existing technology and enable more widespread use of minimally invasive approaches. Robotic surgical instruments have the potential to provide improved dexterity and range of motion within the confines of the human body when compared with manually actuated instruments. The high strain response and elastic energy density of electron-irradiated P(VDF-TrFE) make it a candidate actuator material for robotic instruments that provide electronic mediation and multiple degrees of freedom of tip movement. We are currently studying both active and passive properties of P(VDF-TrFE) with the goal of constructing a mathematical model of the material's behavior. Studies have been conducted on 15 micron thick film samples in rolled and rolled-flattened configurations. Passive properties can be represented by a 5 parameter viscoelastic model with two time constants on the order of ten and 200 seconds. Active responses were found to have strong dependence upon field and modest dependence upon load. We suggest means by which the active and passive responses can be combined in a model of steady-state response that would be of value in positioning tasks. The time course of the active response appears to contain components on two time scales, but further studies are required to characterized it in more detail.