Research Papers

Electromechanical Bistable Behavior of a Novel Dielectric Elastomer Actuator

[+] Author and Article Information
Shaoxing Qu

e-mail: squ@zju.edu.cn
Department of Engineering Mechanics,
Soft Matter Research Center (SMRC),
Zhejiang University,
38 Zheda Road,
Hangzhou 310027, China

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received August 30, 2013; final manuscript received September 20, 2013; accepted manuscript posted September 25, 2013; published online November 13, 2013. Editor: Yonggang Huang.

J. Appl. Mech 81(4), 041019 (Nov 13, 2013) (5 pages) Paper No: JAM-13-1373; doi: 10.1115/1.4025530 History: Received August 30, 2013; Revised September 20, 2013; Accepted September 25, 2013

High voltage is required for the existing dielectric elastomer (DE) actuators to convert electrical energy to mechanical energy. However, maintaining high voltage on DE membranes can cause various failures, such as current leakage and electrical breakdown, which limits their practical applications, especially in small-scale devices. To overcome the above drawback of DE actuators, this paper proposes a new actuation method using DE membranes with a properly designed bistable structure. Experiment shows that the actuator only requires a high-voltage pulse to drive the structure forward and backward with electromechanical snap-through instability. The actuator can maintain its stroke when the voltage is removed. An analytical model based on continuum mechanics is developed, showing good agreement with experiment. The study may inspire the design and optimization of DE transducers.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Two DE membranes (3 M-VHB 4905) coated with compliant electrodes (carbon grease) are mounted on acrylic frames, and interacting with a bistable beam through a rigid bar: (a) schematics and (b) experimental set up

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Four states of the actuator are picked out from one operation cycle in experiment. (a) In state 1, no voltage is applied. (b) In state 2, when a voltage of 6.03 kV is applied on membrane A, the beam snap-through to the other side. (c) In state 3, with the voltage removed, the stroke d remains unchanged. (d) In state 4, when a voltage of 6.03 kV is applied on membrane B, the beam snaps back.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

The kinematics of the actuator. (a) The reference state of membranes A and B. (b) Membranes A and B are identically prestretched and fixed on the rigid frame. (c) A buckled beam is connected to membranes A and B without applying voltage (ΦA = 0, ΦB = 0). (d) When voltage is applied on membrane A (ΦA ≠ 0, ΦB = 0), the actuator deforms and reaches a new state of equilibrium.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Voltage–stroke relationships of the bistable actuator obtained from both the experiment and analytical model

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Schematic diagram of the bistable beam



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