Dielectric elastomers are known to produce large transverse strains in response to electrically induced Maxwell stresses and thus provide a useful form of electromechanical actuation. The transverse strain response of silicone (Dow Corning HS III RTV) based Maxwell stress actuators have been measured earlier as a function of driving electric field, frequency and pre-load. Experimental results show that a pre-load initially causes an increase in the strain. However, this increase appears to be a function of the relative geometries of the electroded area and of the specimen itself. The transverse strains in these materials decrease when larger values of pre-load are applied. Models of hyperelasticity that are capable of describing the large deformation of polymer materials have been used to interpret our results. Numerical finite element simulations of the material’s behavior using a hyperelastic model provides good agreement with most of our observations on the electric field and pre-strain dependencies of the transverse strain.
Some electroactive polymers produce large electric-field-induced strains that can be used for electromechanical actuation. The measurement of the strain response, especially the dynamic response under high driving fields, is difficult. We have developed a transverse strain measurement system based on the Zygo laser Doppler interferometer. The system can measure transverse strain responses of polymer samples of different sizes over a wide displacement range and a frequency range from DC up to 100 Hz. We have used this interferometric system to investigate the strain response of Maxwell stress actuators fabricated from silicone (Dow Corning HS III RTV) and thermoplastic polyurethane (Dow Pellethane 2103) films. The static and dynamic strain responses of the materials to a variety of driving electric fields such as step fields, AC fields and DC bias fields have been measured as functions of amplitude and frequency. The strain response has a quadratic relationship with the driving field and shows a strong dependence on the frequency of the applied field. Of the two kinds of polymers investigated, HS III silicone polymer shows higher strain and breakdown fields. High transverse strains of 3.25 % (static) and 2.08 % (dynamic at 1 Hz) for HS III silicone polymers have been obtained. In addition, the effect of mechanical tensile load on the transverse strain has also been studied. The experimental data are interpreted in terms of measured material properties and small strain models for dielectric film actuators.
Dielectric elastomer actuators rely on the compressive force generated by the electrostatic attraction of a pair of electrodes across a low-modulus polymer.This in turn induces the deformation of the elastomer in the plane normal to the force. It has been shown that the response of such a device is proportional to the permittivity of the core elastomer layer. Here we report our progress
in increasing the permittivity of a polyurethane elastomer through the addition of a conductive filler, graphite. At loadings near the percolation threshold, the actuation stress increases by a factor of over 500, and relative permittivity beyond 4000 is reported.
Electroactive polymer actuators that utilize the Maxwell stress effect have generated considerable interest in recent years for use in applications such as artificial muscles, sensors, and parasitic energy capture. In order to maximize performance, the dielectric layer in Maxwell stress actuators should ideally have a high dielectric constant and high dielectric breakdown strength. In this study, the effect of high dielectric constant fillers on the electrical and mechanical properties of thin elastomeric films was examined. The fillers studied included the inorganic compounds titanium dioxide (TiO<sub>2</sub>), barium titanate (BaTiO<sub>3</sub>), and lead magnesium niobate-lead titanate (Pb(Mg<sub>1/3</sub>Nb<sub>2/3</sub>)O<sub>3</sub>-PbTiO). A high dielectric constant filler based on a polymeric conjugated ligand-metal complex, poly(copper phthalocyanine), was also synthesized and studied. Maxwell stress actuators fabricated with BaTiO<sub>3</sub> dispersed in a silicone elastomer matrix were evaluated and compared with unfilled systems. A model was presented which relates filler volume fraction to actuation stress, strain, and elastic energy density at fields below dielectric breakdown. The model and experimental results suggest that for the case of strong filler particle-elastomer matrix interaction, actuation strain decreases with increasing filler content.