Our Research on Dielectric Elastomers (DE) ...

... have been divided into the following parts:

  • Manufacturing of dielectric elastomers with industrially-suited, scalable Processes

  • Experimental characterisation of the electromechanical behaviour of the material

  • Design of actuator/sensor systems (DEA/DES)

  • Design of prototypes to highlight effects and uses of the technology

  • Investigation of the self-sensing-effects for the building of more compact, sensorless actuator systems

  • Modelling of DE-based actuator/sensor systems

  • Development of advanced steering concepts for DEA/DES

  • Development of reducible and integrable high voltage designs

For a glimpse of our research activities in DEs please scroll through this page…

What are Dielectric Elastomers?

Dielectric Elastomers are thin films (20-200µm) of a dielectric polymer (e.g. Silicon), which are imprinted with highly flexible electrodes. With the onset of an electrical actuation (in the kilovolt range) the electrodes compress the polymer film, increasing its total area.

This effect is used in Actuation, where the geometrical changes also induce a change in the capacitance. This can be used for measuring applied pressures or deformations. Together these two effects are known as self-sensing, which allows for the position control of a DE-actuator without requiring the addition of external sensors.

DE COP Membranaktor
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DE Membran
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How do you create Dielectric Elastomers?

To manufacture DE membrane-actuators, thin Silicon films (e.g. Wacker ELASTOSIL) are imprinted with highly compliant electrodes consisting of PDMS and Carbon Black in our cleansing room with a screen printing process, whose inherent ability to scale is suitable for the large-scale production of DE actuators.

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Electromechanical Properties / Experiments

In order to construct DEA/DES knowledge of its material behaviour is of the utmost importance. For this purpose we built several modern test rigs (partially self-developed), in order to systematically characterise the coupled electromechanical behaviour. Tensile tests preformed with varying applied electric voltages, as well as dielectric discharge measurements and fatigue behaviour, are run inside a climate chamber in order to understand the effect of temperature and moisture on DEs. The oscillation characteristics of DEs are measured via laser vibrometry or Digital-Image-Correlation (DIC) in order to measure the strain field.

Dynamischer Membrantester
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Research Activities/Application

Despite the high Voltage, the electrical current of the DEAs is usually only in the realm of microamperes. Due to this the material is extremely energy efficient, but not only is the DE energy-efficient, it is also extremely cost-effective due to its self sensing property, permitting it to be utilized without further external sensors. Go through the gallery below, in order to see pictures or videos of our activities, as well as the potential uses of dielectric elastomer membrane.

Hover your mouse over the images for related information, to open, click with the offending mouse.