Electroactive polymers can be used for actuators with many desirable features, including high electromechanical energy density, low weight, compactness, direct voltage control, and complete silence during actuation. These features may enable personalized robotics with much higher ability to delicately manipulate their surroundings than can be achieved with currently available actuators; however, much work is still necessary to enhance the electroactive materials. Electric field-driven actuator materials are improved by an increase in permittivity and by a reduction in stiffness. Here, a synergistic enhancement method based on a macromolecular plasticizing filler molecule with a combination of both high dipole moment and compatibilizer moieties, synthesized to simultaneously ensure improvement of electromechanical properties and compatibility with the host matrix is presented. Measurements show an 85% increase in permittivity combined with 290% reduction in mechanical stiffness. NMR measurements confirm the structure of the filler while DSC measurements confirm that it is compatible with the host matrix at all the mixture ratios investigated. Actuation strain measurements in the pure shear configuration display an increase in sensitivity to the electrical field of more than 450%, confirming that the filler molecule does not only improve dielectric and mechanical properties, it also leads to a synergistic enhancement of actuation properties by simple means.
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