Conference paper

Cutting the fat: Artificial muscle oscillators for lighter, cheaper, and slimmer devices

Artificial muscles based on dielectric elastomers show enormous promise for a wide range of applications and are slowly moving from the lab to industry. One problem for industrial uptake is the expensive, rigid, heavy and bulky high voltage driver, sensor and control circuitry that artificial muscle devices currently require. One recent development, the Dielectric Elastomer Switch(es) (DES), shows promise for substantially reducing auxiliary circuitry and helping to mature the technology. DES are piezoresistive elements that can be used to form logic, driver, and sensor circuitry. One particularly useful feature of DES is their ability to embed oscillatory behaviour directly into an artificial muscle device. In this paper we will focus on how DES oscillators can break down the barriers to industrial adoption for artificial muscle devices. We have developed an improved artificial muscle ring oscillator and applied it to form a mechanosensitive conveyor. The free running oscillator ran at 4.4 Hz for 1056 cycles before failing due to electrode degradation. With better materials artificial muscle oscillators could open the door to robots with increased power to weight ratios, simple-to-control peristaltic pumps, and commercially viable artificial muscle motors.

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