What are dielectric elastomers?

Dielectric elastomers belong are categorized as electroactive polymers and can act as sensors, actuators, or a combination of both. On one hand, a deformation of the elastomer results in a capacitance change, which can be used as a sensor signal. On the other hand, an applied voltage causes a deformation of the elastomer and generates movement. The combination of both effects results in a smart actuator.

Dielectric elastomers

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Technology

What are dielectric elastomers?

They consist of wafer-thin elastomer films (dielectrics), which are sandwiched between compliant electrodes. This stretchable capacitor-like structure allows for measuring deformation by reading the capacitance, or to generate motion when a voltage is applied to it. The motion is generated by what is known as Maxwell pressure. The combination of both results in smart actuators with closed-loop position control by utilizing the self-sensing effect.

How may dielectric elastomers actuators be used?

Dielectric elastomers cover an array of applications ranging from haptic feedback and loudspeakers to morphing surfaces and intelligent drives (e.g. valves). The incorporation of sensory and actuation functions makes dielectric elastomers the perfect technology for Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

In addition, this technology allows for the beneficial replacement of conventional electromagnetic or pneumatic actuation units - to overcome their drawbacks like excessive energy consumption, Joule heating, or the need of additional sensors for closed-loop position control.

How may dielectric elastomer sensors be used?

Sensors based on dielectric elastomers can, due to their flexible, compliant manner, adapt to any shape / surface. Within these environments, they can measure entities like pressure, strain, deformation, etc. Their unique flexibility allows measurement of strains up to 100%.

What can dielectric elastomers actuators be used for?

Dielectric elastomers cover an array of applications ranging from haptic feedback, Loudspeaker to morphing surfaces and intelligent drives for e.g. valves. The incorporation of sensory and actuation functions makes dielectric elastomers the perfect technology for industry 4.0 and IoT applications.

In addition, the technology allows a beneficial replacement of conventional electromagnetic or pneumatic actuation units to overcome their drawbacks like high energy consumption, joule heating or the need of additional sensors for closed-loop position control.

What can dielectric elastomer sensors be used for?

Sensors based on dielectric elastomers can, due to their flexible and compliant manner, be adopted to any shape of a surface. There they can measure quantities like pressure, strain, deformation, etc. Their unique flexibility allows to measure strains up to 100%.

What is self-sensing?

The generated motion of actuators from Desaar is always based on the deformation of the dielectric elastomer film, thus generating a change in capacitance. This capacitance change is directly related to the position of the actuator and thereby allows position feedback for closed-loop control functionality without an additional sensor. This effect is called self-sensing and can also be used to monitor the correct operation of the system.

Are dielectric elastomers expensive?

No, they are not. The products of Desaar mainly consist of inexpensive materials like silicone (dielectric) and a carbon black elastomer mixture (conductive electrode). We also avoid expensive specialized manufacturing techniques. We prefer to use established large-scale production methods on standard equipment. Our know-how in the area of power electronics additionally allows us to build cost efficient electronic solutions.

Why are dielectric elastomer actuators so energy efficient?

Desaar’s dielectric elastomers are a capacitive actuator technology, which needs high voltages (not exceeding 3 kV). However, the required current is in the microampere range, resulting in power consumption in the milliwatt range. This capacitive behavior also allows holding a position without any current draw. This leads to very low power consumption, thus reducing heating during continuous operation.

What supply voltages are needed?

Desaar’s knowledge in power electronics allows us to generate the high voltages within the actuator from a 6 to 48 volts input voltage source. This enables safe and easy integration of our actuators within your system. Additionally, it enables easy replacement of electromagnetic actuators without any change in the wiring of your machine.