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Dielectric electro-active polymer push actuators: performance and challenges

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Abstract

Progress in research and development in the field of electro-active polymers has enabled prototype fabrication, which demonstrates the future potential and versatility offered by this technology. These prototypes can be qualified as laboratory demonstrators. A new design of dielectric elastomer linear actuators is presented here. These actuators have the unique properties of being self-supporting and core-free. They are capable of large push forces and are fabricated based on large-scale industrial manufacturing processes. Actuators can be easily scaled to fit specific application needs. Actuator design and construction principles, as well as modelling are presented and discussed for push InLastor® actuators. The actuators exhibit modest strokes and high actuation forces. Current design considerations indicate that the achievable force output is reduced by about 40% due to the passive ends of the actuator. Dielectric electro-active polymer DEAP film manufacturing challenges contribute to reducing the achievable breakdown strength to 35 V µm−1 and limit the strain to modest figures. It is shown that push InLastor actuators can be operated at field strength levels above 45 V µm−1, and exhibit larger strokes and forces in good agreement with the model. At these elevated electric field levels, risks of catastrophic breakdown increase, resulting in reduced actuator lifetime. A major milestone in the manufacturing of actuators based on the DEAP technology has been achieved by Danfoss PolyPower. Large-scale manufacturing of robust and reliable push tubular actuators is possible. Roll-to-roll manufacturing processes make it possible to manufacture these powerful actuators, based on PolyPower compliant electrode design. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry

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