Electroactive polymer (EAPs) based technologies have shown promise in areas such as artificial muscles, aerospace, medical and soft robotics. In this work, we demonstrate ways to harness on-demand segmented folding actuation from pure bending of relaxor-ferroelectric P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) based films, using various design approaches, such as ‘stiffener’ and ‘notch’ based approaches. The in-plane actuation of the P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) is converted into bending actuation using unimorph configurations, where one passive substrate layer is attached to the active polymer. First, we experimentally show that placement of thin metal strips as stiffener in between active EAPs and passive substrates leads to segmented actuation as opposed to pure bending actuation; stiffeners made of different materials, such as nickel, copper and aluminum, are studied which reveals that a higher Young’s modulus favors more pronounced segmented actuation. Second, notched samples are prepared by mounting passive substrate patches of various materials on top of the passive layers of the unimorph EAP actuators. Effect of notch materials, size of the notches and position of the notches on the folding actuation are studied. The motion of the human finger inspires a finger-like biomimetic actuator, which is realized by assigning multiple notches on the structure; finite element analysis (FEA) is also performed using COMSOL Multiphysics software for the notched finger actuator. Finally, a versatile soft-gripper is developed using the notched approach to demonstrate the capability of a properly designed EAP actuator to hold objects of various sizes and shapes.
Electroactive polymer (EAP) based technologies have shown promise in areas such as artificial muscles, actuator, aerospace, medical and soft robotics. Still challenges remain such as low induced forces and defects-driven electrical breakdown, which impede the practical implementation of this technology. Multilayered or stacked configuration can address the low induced force issue whereas self-clearing can be a technique to improve breakdown limit of EAP based actuators. Self-clearing refers to the partial local breakdown of dielectric medium due to the presence of impurities, which in turn results in the evaporation of some of the metalized electrode. After this evaporation, the impurity is cleared and any current path would be safely cut off, which means the actuator continues to perform. It is a widely studied concept in the capacitor community, while it has not been studied much for EAP technologies. In this paper we report a systematic approach to precondition a silver-metalized electroactive polymer (EAP), more specifically P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) terpolymer, using self-clearing concept. First, we show improvement in the dielectric breakdown strength of EAP based unimorph actuators after pre-clearing the impurities using low electric field (lower than dielectric breakdown of the terpolymer). Inspired by this improvement, we used Weibull statistics to systematically estimate the self-clearing/ preconditioning field needed to clear the defects. Then electrical breakdown experiments are conducted with and without preconditioning the samples to investigate its effect on the breakdown strength of the sample.
The objective of origami engineering is to combine origami principles with advanced materials to yield active origami shapes, which fold and unfold in response to external stimuli. We are investigating the use of P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE), a relaxor ferroelectric terpolymer, to realize origami-inspired folding and unfolding of structures and to actuate so-called action origami structures. To accomplish these two objectives, we have explored different approaches to the P(VDF-TrFECTFE) polymer actuator construction, ranging from unimorph to multilayered stacks. Electromechanical characterization of the terpolymer-based actuators is conducted with a focus on free strain, force-displacement and blocked force. Moreover dynamic thickness strains of P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) terpolymer at different frequencies ranging from 0.1Hz to 10Hz is also measured. Quantifying the performance of terpolymer-based actuators is important to the design of action origami structures. Following these studies, action origami prototypes based on catapult, flapping butterfly wings and barking fox are actuated and characterization of these prototypes are conducted by studying impact of various parameters such as electric field magnitude and frequency, number of active layers, and actuator dimensions.