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Title: Novel material composites for dielectric elastomer actuators
Authors: Ankit
Keywords: Engineering::Materials
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Ankit. (2019). Novel material composites for dielectric elastomer actuators. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: Robots have been around us for quite some time now. Robots are machines capable of performing tasks on their own with high accuracy and precision and minimal supervision to reduce human effort. Our daily lives are touched by different forms of robots around us, be it a direct interaction in form of robotic helpers at the airport or indirectly in the case of industrial arm robots assembling the electronics and machines. Traditionally, there are several component systems to robotics and one of the prominent one is actuation, which is made from hard and rigid components in these conventional robots. However, this is responsible for their intermittent motion. A new field of research, soft robotics, makes of soft materials for their fabrication and draws inspiration from natural organisms and how they produce fluidic and complex motions. There are different ways by which these soft materials can be actuated and include techniques like applying pneumatic and hydraulic pressure, applying heat, making use of a chemical process like combustion, applying varying magnetic fields and applying electric fields. Among these, the class of actuators employing soft materials deformed by applying the electric field, known as Dielectric elastomer actuators, are preferred owing to their advantages of simple fabrication, large actuation strain and control by electrical stimulus. The architecture of these actuators resembles a variable capacitor with electrodes on either sides of the elastomer, and their performance depends on material properties like dielectric constant and mechanical stiffness. Generally, researchers have tried to modify either of these properties with addition of solid conductive or ceramic fillers, or chemical modification of the elastomer, and this has led to undesirable changes on the other material properties. Drawing inspiration from biological materials like skin, which is a soft material system filled with fluids, a novel composite is synthesized utilizing a solid polymer matrix and a high dielectric constant liquid filler, an ionic liquid. An increase in dielectric constant is observed accompanied with significant reduction in mechanical stiffness. The novel composites show significant improvement upon the actuation performance of the commonly used elastomeric system at considerably low electric fields. Owing to the judicious choice of material systems, the composites also show high stability and transparency. With emergence of new generation technologies such as display touchscreens, touchpads, virtual reality and augmented reality, human machine interaction and haptics has become ever more important. Soft actuators and dielectric elastomer actuators (in particular), owing to their inherent softness, have convincing advantage over the conventional rigid actuators. Additionally, state-of-the-art technologies for haptics primarily seek to simulate the perception of texture change with sensory manipulation. Furthermore, dielectric elastomer actuators in their current form suffer from visible obstructiveness and non-integrable architecture. A new device architecture for dielectric elastomer actuators, capable of producing on-demand surface texture change and local topographic features, is demonstrated. Owing to its unique architecture, a highly transparent, flexible and integrable configuration of the device is showed. Out-of-plane deformations and force feedback from the devices are shown to be well above the perceptual threshold of sensors, known as mechanoreceptors, present in our fingertips. Another attribute of the biological appendages in natural organisms is the ability to reversibly modulate its mechanical properties upon demand, which still eludes the field of soft robotics. One of the best examples of this is found in human body, where muscles modulate their stiffness in accordance to the load distribution and movement. Most of the current approaches mange to only demonstrate reversible stiffness and involves combination of a passive reversible stiffness component with the existing actuator. Hence, a novel low-temperature phase change material is identified for enabling reversible rigidity in the soft actuators owing to its low melting point, significant gap between melting and solidification, superior thermal stability, high mechanical strength and high dielectric constant. Thermal control is chosen the modulation of mechanical properties, owing to its lightweight design and scalability. The fabricated reversible rigidity composites show impressive variations in stretchability, bendability and hardness. Owing to its ability to melt and re-solidify, the composites also demonstrate a healing behaviour with the ability to regain complete structural integrity and mechanical strength. These novel ultra-soft, high-k liquid filler-based polymer composites, reversible rigidity composites and transparent and integrable device architectures for field-driven soft actuators could pave the way for next generation applications such as shape morphing, adaptive surfaces and transparent haptic devices.
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:MSE Theses

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