Large-Stroke Dielectric Elastomer Actuators With Ion- Implanted Electrodes
In this paper, we present miniaturized polydimethyl- siloxane (PDMS)-based diaphragm dielectric elastomer actuators capable of out-of-plane displacement up to 25% of their diameter. This very large percentage displacement is made possible by the use of compliant electrodes fabricated by low-energy gold ion im- plantation. This technique forms nanometer-scale metallic clusters up to 50 nm below the PDMS surface, creating an electrode that can sustain up to 175% strain while remaining conductive yet having only a minimal impact on the elastomer’s mechanical properties. We present a vastly improved chip-scale process flow for fabricating suspended-membrane actuators with low- resistance contacts to implanted electrodes on both sides of the membrane. This process leads to a factor of two increase in breakdown voltage and to RC time constant shorter than mechanical time constants. For circular diaphragm actuator of 1.5–3-mm diameter, voltage- controlled static out-of-plane deflections of up to 25% of their diameter is observed, which is a factor of four higher than our previous published results. Dynamic characterization shows a mechanically limited behavior, with a resonance frequency near 1 kHz and a quality factor of 7.5 in air. Lifetime tests have shown no degradation after more than 4 million cycles at 1.5 kV. Conductive stretchable electrodes photolithographically defined on PDMS were demonstrated as a key step to further miniaturiza- tion, enabling large arrays of independent diaphragm actuators on a chip, for instance for tunable microlens arrays or arrays of micropumps and microvalves.