Self-sensing dielectric elastomer actuators in closed-loop operation
Because of their large output strain, dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) have been proposed for tunable optics applications such as tunable gratings. However, the inherent viscoelastic drift of these actuators is an important drawback and closed-loop operation of DEAs is a prerequisite for any accurate real-world application. In this paper, we show how capacitive self-sensing can be used to drive a DEA in closed-loop without the need for any external sensor. The method has been demonstrated on a DEA tunable grating based on a VHB acrylic and silicone membrane. The results show that the widely used VHB presents a time-dependent drift between the capacitance of the electrodes and their strain. The silicone-based grating does not exhibit such a drift, and its strain can be stabilized by regulating the capacitance of the device to a constant value. We also report on an new fabrication method for thin deformable gratings based on replication on a water-soluble master and a 27% change in the grating period has been obtained on a VHB-based device.