Dielectric elastomer membranes undergoing inhomogeneous deformation
Dielectric elastomers are capable of large deformation subject to an electric voltage and are promising for use as actuators, sensors, and generators. Because of large deformation, nonlinear equations of states, and diverse modes of failure, modeling the process of electromechanical transduction has been challenging. This paper studies a membrane of a dielectric elastomer deformed into an out-of-plane axisymmetric shape, a configuration used in a family of commercial devices known as the universal muscle actuators. The kinematics of deformation and charging, together with thermodynamics, leads to equations that govern the state of equilibrium. Numerical results indicate that the field in the membrane can be very inhomogeneous, and that the membrane is susceptible to several modes of failure, including electrical breakdown, loss of tension, and rupture by stretch. Care is needed in the design to balance the requirements of averting various modes of failure while using the material efficiently. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.
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