Journal article

Ion implanted dielectric elastomer circuits

Starfish and octopuses control their infinite degree of- freedom arms with panache—capabilities typical of nature where the distribution of reflex-like intelligence throughout soft muscular networks greatly outperforms anything hard, heavy, and man-made. Dielectric elastomer actuators show great promise for soft artificial muscle networks. One way to make them smart is with piezo-resistive Dielectric Elastomer Switches (DES) that can be combined with artificial muscles to create arbitrary digital logic circuits. Unfortunately there are currently no reliable materials or fabrication process. Thus devices typically fail within a few thousand cycles. As a first step in the search for better materials we present a preliminary exploration of piezo-resistors made with filtered cathodic vacuum arc metal ion implantation. DES were formed on polydimethylsiloxane silicone membranes out of ion implanted gold nano-clusters. We propose that there are four distinct regimes (high dose, above percolation, on percolation, low dose) in which gold ion implanted piezo-resistors can operate and present experimental results on implanted piezo-resistors switching high voltages as well as a simple artificial muscle inverter. While gold ion implanted DES are limited by high hysteresis and low sensitivity, they already show promise for a range of applications including hysteretic oscillators and soft generators. With improvements to implanter process control the promise of artificial muscle circuitry for soft smart actuator networks could become a reality.

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