Arrays of 100μm x 100μm dielectric elastomer actuators to strain the single cells
Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEA) are compliant devices capable of generating large percentage strains with sub-second response times. Miniaturizing DEAs is challenging principally because of the need for mu m-scale compliant electrodes. Employing low-energy gold-ion implantation into a 30 mu m thick membrane of Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), we have patterned 100 mu m wide compliant electrodes and fabricated arrays of 100 mu m x 100 mu m DEAs reaching up to 80% in-plane strain at 4 kV. The actuators are designed to be used to stretch single biological cells attached on top of them in order to study mechanotransduction at the individual cell level. In order to have a continuous ground electrode on which the cells will be cultured, a passive 20 mu m thick PDMS layer is bonded on top of the actuator array. In this configuration, 37 % strain on the actuators is observed at 3.6 kV. We show that the actuation strain is tunable from uniaxial to biaxial by anisotropically prestretching the elastomer membrane. (C) 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.