Prestrain provides high actuation performance in dielectric elastomers (DEs) but increases the bulk, mass, and fatigue of the resulting actuators. Based on our experiments on prestrain-locked interpenetrating polymer films and the model developed by Zhao and Suo, materials with a certain stress–strain relationship should be capable of high strain without prestrain by suppressing electromechanical instability (EMI). Here, we report the synthesis of an acrylic elastomer capable of achieving high actuation performance without prestrain. DE films were directly fabricated by ultraviolet curing of precursors comprising a mixture of acrylate comonomers. Varying the amount of crosslinker comonomer in the precursor allowed us to tune the stress–strain relationship and completely suppress EMI while maintaining high strain performance. Addition of plasticizing agents increased strain sensitivity. The result is a new DE, synthesized from scratch, capable of high actuation strain (>100%), high energy density (>1 J g−1), and good temperature and frequency response without requiring prestretching. The material can be fabricated using conventional coating techniques and the process can allow for high volume throughput of stacked DE actuators. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys, 2013
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