Zipping dielectric elastomer actuators: characterization, design and modeling
We report on miniature dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) operating in zipping mode with an analytical model that predicts their behavior. Electrostatic zipping is a well-known mechanism in silicon MEMS to obtain large deformations and forces at lower voltages than for parallel plate electrostatic actuation. We extend this concept to DEAs, which allows us to obtain much larger out-of-plane displacements compared to silicon thanks to the softness of the elastomer membrane. We study experimentally the effect of sidewall angles and elastomer prestretch on 2.3 mm diameter actuators with PDMS membranes. With 15° and 22.5° sidewall angles, the devices zip in a bistable manner down 300 μm to the bottom of the chambers. The highly tunable bistable behavior is controllable by both chamber geometry and membrane parameters. Other specific characteristics of zipping DEAs include well-controlled deflected shape, tunable displacement versus voltage characteristics to virtually any shape, including multi-stable modes, sealing of embedded holes or channels for valving action and the reduction of the operating voltage. These properties make zipping DEAs an excellent candidate for applications such as integrated microfluidics actuators or Braille displays.