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Bioinspired Tunable Lens with Muscle-Like Electroactive Elastomers

Authors

  • Federico Carpi,

    Corresponding author
    1. Interdepartmental Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, School of Engineering, via Diotisalvi, 2–56100 Pisa, Italy
    2. Technology & Life Institute, 56100 Pisa, Italy
    • Interdepartmental Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, School of Engineering, via Diotisalvi, 2–56100 Pisa, Italy.
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  • Gabriele Frediani,

    1. Interdepartmental Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, School of Engineering, via Diotisalvi, 2–56100 Pisa, Italy
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  • Simona Turco,

    1. Interdepartmental Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, School of Engineering, via Diotisalvi, 2–56100 Pisa, Italy
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  • Danilo De Rossi

    1. Interdepartmental Research Centre “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, School of Engineering, via Diotisalvi, 2–56100 Pisa, Italy
    2. Technology & Life Institute, 56100 Pisa, Italy
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Abstract

Optical lenses with tunable focus are needed in several fields of application, such as consumer electronics, medical diagnostics and optical communications. To address this need, lenses made of smart materials able to respond to mechanical, magnetic, optical, thermal, chemical, electrical or electrochemical stimuli are intensively studied. Here, we report on an electrically tunable lens made of dielectric elastomers, an emerging class of “artificial muscle” materials for actuation. The optical device is inspired by the architecture of the crystalline lens and ciliary muscle of the human eye. It consists of a fluid-filled elastomeric lens integrated with an annular elastomeric actuator working as an artificial muscle. Upon electrical activation, the artificial muscle deforms the lens, so that a relative variation of focal length comparable to that of the human lens is demonstrated. The device combined optical performance with compact size, low weight, fast and silent operation, shock tolerance, no overheating, low power consumption, and possibility of implementation with inexpensive off-the-shelf elastomers. Results show that combing bioinspired design with the unique properties of dielectric elastomers as artificial muscle transducers has the potential to open new perspectives on tunable optics.

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