Interfacing dielectric elastomer actuators with liquids
Methods and materials for liquid encapsulation in thin (19 μm) silicone membranes are presented in this work. A set of 12 liquids including solvents, oils, silicone pre-polymers and one ionic liquid are experimentally tested. We show that all selected liquids are chemically inert to silicone and that vapor pressure is the key parameter for stable encapsulation. It is demonstrated that encapsulated volume of silicone pre-polymers and ionic liquids can stay stable for more than 1 month. The actuation of dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) in conductive liquids is also investigated. An analysis of the equivalent electrical circuits of immersed DEAs shows that non-overlapping regions of the electrodes should be minimized. It also provides guidelines to determine when the electrodes should be passivated. The effects of immersion in a conductive liquid are assessed by measuring the actuation strain and capacitance over periodic actuation. The experimental results show no sign of liquid-induced degradation over more than 45k actuation cycles.