A Unidirectional Soft Dielectric Elastomer Actuator Enabled by Built-In Honeycomb Metastructures

Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are able to undergo large deformation in response to external electric stimuli and have been widely used to drive soft robotic systems, due to their advantageous attributes comparable to biological muscles. However, due to their isotropic material properties, it...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Authors: Kun Liu, Shitong Chen, Feifei Chen, Xiangyang Zhu
Format: Article
Language:English
Published: MDPI AG 2020-03-01
Series:Polymers
Subjects:
Online Access:https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4360/12/3/619
Description
Summary:Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are able to undergo large deformation in response to external electric stimuli and have been widely used to drive soft robotic systems, due to their advantageous attributes comparable to biological muscles. However, due to their isotropic material properties, it has been challenging to generate programmable actuation, e.g., along a predefined direction. In this paper, we provide an innovative solution to this problem by harnessing honeycomb metastructures to program the mechanical behavior of dielectric elastomers. The honeycomb metastructures not only provide mechanical prestretches for DEAs but, more importantly, transfer the areal expansion of DEAs into directional deformation, by virtue of the inherent anisotropy. To achieve uniaxial actuation and maximize its magnitude, we develop a finite element analysis model and study how the prestretch ratios and the honeycomb structuring tailor the voltage-induced deformation. We also provide an easy-to-implement and scalable fabrication solution by directly printing honeycomb lattices made of thermoplastic polyurethane on dielectric membranes with natural bonding. The preliminary experiments demonstrate that our designed DEA is able to undergo unidirectional motion, with the nominal strain reaching up to 15.8%. Our work represents an initial step to program deformation of DEAs with metastructures.
ISSN:2073-4360