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Research Papers

Harnessing Dielectric Breakdown of Dielectric Elastomer to Achieve Large Actuation

[+] Author and Article Information
Hui Zhang

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Southeast University,
2 Si Pai Lou,
Nanjing 210096, China
e-mail: 230139323@seu.edu.cn

Yingxi Wang

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
National University of Singapore,
9 Engineering Drive 1,
Singapore 117575, Singapore
e-mail: mpewyxi@nus.edu.sg

Hareesh Godaba

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
National University of Singapore,
9 Engineering Drive 1,
Singapore 117575, Singapore
e-mail: Hareesh@u.nus.edu

Boo Cheong Khoo

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
National University of Singapore,
9 Engineering Drive 1,
Singapore 117575, Singapore
e-mail: mpekbc@nus.edu.sg

Zhisheng Zhang

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Southeast University,
2 Si Pai Lou,
Nanjing 210096, China
e-mail: oldbc@seu.edu.cn

Jian Zhu

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
National University of Singapore,
9 Engineering Drive 1,
Singapore 117575, Singapore
e-mail: mpezhuj@nus.edu.sg

1Corresponding authors.

Manuscript received September 1, 2017; final manuscript received October 9, 2017; published online October 26, 2017. Assoc. Editor: Shaoxing Qu.

J. Appl. Mech 84(12), 121011 (Oct 26, 2017) (7 pages) Paper No: JAM-17-1478; doi: 10.1115/1.4038174 History: Received September 01, 2017; Revised October 09, 2017

It is an interesting open question how to achieve large actuation of a dielectric elastomer (DE). In many previous works, in order to harness snap-through instability to achieve large deformation, a reservoir was employed to assist the dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) to optimize its loading condition/path, which makes the whole actuation system bulky and heavy. In this paper, we explore large actuation of a DE balloon with applications to a soft flight system. The balloon consists of two separate DEAs: The inner one is stiffer while the outer one is softer. The whole actuation system has a small volume and a low weight, but can achieve large actuation by harnessing dielectric breakdown of the inner elastomer. The volume induced by dielectric breakdown is more than 20 times the voltage-induced volume change of DEAs. The experiments demonstrate a soft flight system, which can move effectively in air by taking advantage of large actuation of this DE balloon. This project also shows that failure of materials can be harnessed to achieve useful functionalities.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

The schematic of a DE balloon, which consists of two layers of elastomer. The inner layer is stiff rubber and the outer layer is soft VHB. (a) At the reference state, the actuator is subject to no pressure or voltage. (b) At the prestretched state, gas is pumped into the balloon and is then enclosed. (c) At actuation state 1, elastomer 1 is subject to voltage Φ1. (d) When the voltage reaches a critical value, elastomer 1 suffers dielectric breakdown and then fractures. Since elastomer 2 is much softer compared to elastomer 1, the balloon achieves a large deformation. (e) At actuation state 2, elastomer 2 is subject to voltage Φ2.

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Fig. 2

Fabrication of the DE balloon

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Fig. 3

Experimental results. (a) Pressure and volume of the balloon as a function of voltage Φ1, which is applied to the inner elastomer of rubber. At Φ1 = 2.7 kV, rubber suffers dielectric breakdown, and both the pressure and volume change significantly. (b) Pressure and volume of the balloon as a function of voltage Φ2, which is applied to the outer elastomer of VHB. (c) State A. (d) State B. (e) State C. (f)State D. The pressure at each state is also shown in the inset of (c)–(f).

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Fig. 4

The VHB membrane forms wrinkles when the voltage reaches a critical value at Φ2 = 7.1 kV

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Fig. 5

Theoretical calculations of the balloon performance when the elastomer of rubber is subject to voltage. (a) Pressure as a function of volume. (b) Voltage as a function of volume for different initial volumes Vpre. The circle represents dielectric breakdown of the rubber balloon while the star represents loss of tension. The rubber balloon suffers dielectric breakdown before loss of tension. (c) Voltage-induced volume as a function of initial volume.

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Fig. 6

Theoretical calculations of the balloon performance when the rubber balloon suffers dielectric breakdown. (a) Pressure as a function of volume. (b) Volume induced by dielectric breakdown as a function of initial volume.

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Fig. 7

Theoretical calculations of the balloon performance when the elastomer of VHB is subject to voltage. (a) Pressure as a function of volume. (b) Voltage as a function of volume for different initial volumes. The circle represents dielectric breakdown of the rubber balloon while the star represents loss of tension. The VHB balloon suffers loss of tension before dielectric breakdown. (c) Voltage-induced volume as a function of initial volume.

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Fig. 8

Calculation results. (a) Pressure and volume of the balloon as a function of voltage Φ1, which is applied to the inner elastomer of rubber. Vpre is set to be 1.251 cm3, consistent with the experiments. At Φ1=2.54 kV, rubber suffers dielectric breakdown, and both the pressure and volume change significantly. (b) Pressure and volume of the balloon as a function of voltage Φ2, which is applied to the outer elastomer of VHB.

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Fig. 9

The volume change as a function of initial volume of the balloon. Theoretical calculation are shown in solid lines. Experimental results for the volume induced by dielectric breakdown of rubber, the voltage-induced volume in the rubber balloon, and the voltage-induced volume in the VHB balloon are shown in square, cross, and circle, respectively.

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Fig. 10

Position of the soft flight system at different time instants. (a) In absence of voltage, the system is at equilibrium. (b) At t = 0, the rubber balloon suffers dielectric breakdown, and the system starts to move up. (c)–(h) The states of the system, as it moves up. (i) Displacement of the flight system as a function of time: (a) before dielectric breakdown of rubber, (b) after dielectric breakdown of rubber t = 0 s, (c) t = 2 s, (d) t = 4 s, (e) t = 6 s, (f) t = 9 s, (g) t = 12 s, and (h) t = 15 s.

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