Assessing the degradation of compliant electrodes for soft actuators

We present an automated system to measure the degradation of compliant electrodes used in dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) over millions of cycles. Electrodes for DEAs generally experience biaxial linear strains of more than 10%. The decrease in electrode conductivity induced by this repeated fast mechanical deformation impacts the bandwidth of the actuator and its strain homogeneity. Changes in the electrode mechanical properties lead to reduced actuation strain. Rather than using an external actuator to periodically deform the electrodes, our measurement method consists of measuring the properties of an electrode in an expanding circle DEA. A programmable high voltage power supply drives the actuator with a square signal up to 1 kHz, periodically actuating the DEA, and thus stretching the electrodes. The DEA strain is monitored with a universal serial bus camera, while the resistance of the ground electrode is measured with a multimeter. The system can be used for any type of electrode. We validated the test setup by characterising a carbon black/silicone composite that we commonly use as compliant electrode. Although the composite is well-suited for tens of millions of cycles of actuation below 5%, we observe important degradation for higher deformations. When activated at a 20% radial strain, the electrodes suffer from important damage after a few thousand cycles, and an inhomogeneous actuation is observed, with the strain localised in a sub-region of the actuator only.

Publié dans:
Review of Scientific Instruments, 88, 10, 105002
Melville, American Institute of Physics

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 Notice créée le 2017-10-10, modifiée le 2019-03-17

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