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Keywords:

  • actuators;
  • dielectrics;
  • polyaniline;
  • miniemulsion;
  • core/shell nanoparticles

Abstract

A novel method allowing rapid production of reliable composites with increased dielectric constant and high dielectric strength for dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) is reported. The promising approach using composites of conductive particles and insulating polymers generally suffers from low breakdown fields when applied to DEA devices. The present publication shows how to overcome this deficiency by using conductive polyaniline (PANI) particles encapsulated into an insulating polymer shell prior to dispersion. PANI particles are encapsulated using miniemulsion polymerization (MP) of divinylbenzene (DVB). The encapsulation process is scaled up to approximately 20 g particles per batch. The resulting particles are used as high dielectric constant (ϵ′) fillers. Composites in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) matrix are prepared and the resulting films characterized by dielectric spectroscopy and tensile tests, and evaluated in electromechanical actuators. The composite films show a more than threefold increase in ϵ′, breakdown field strengths above 50 V μm−1, and increased strain at break. These novel materials allow tuning the actuation strain or stress output and have potential as materials for energy harvesting.