Functional dielectric elastomers
Dielectric elastomer actuators are stretchable capacitors that elongate when charged. They are constructed from a thin elastic film coated with two compliant stretchable electrodes.
When a voltage is applied, the film is elongated perpendicular to the applied electric field. This process is reversible; after removal of the field, the elastomer relaxes back to its original form.
Our research aims at developing elastomers with increased permittivity and good elastic properties that can be used as dielectric in actuators operated at low electric fields.
For this purpose, we are currently concentrated on polysiloxanes which are either chemically modified with polar groups or blended with conductive or polable nanoparticles.
This research combines fundamental with applied aspects and reaches all the way to functional devices which as the ultimate goal will help meet societal needs.
Figure: Schematic cross-section in (a) the non-activated and (b) the activated states of a membrane actuator.