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Polymer and elastomer actuator concepts for engineering


The combination of two electromechanically active materials with very different properties into a single active structure is a novel concept of wide implication: the actuation properties of such active structures would be highly tuneable, and actuation modes of a high complexity made possible, with numerous potential applications like active exoskeletons, micro air vehicles, autonomous robots, variable stiffness materials, haptic displays, active damping and noise suppression, etc.

Two electro-active polymers will be employed, piezoelectric polymer and dielectric elastomer. Their actuation properties are well-known, and they constitute the two main electric-field actuated polymers. They are complementary in the sense that dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) easily output strains of more than 200%, but provide actuation stresses of just a few MPa. Conversely, piezoelectric polymer actuators (PPA) display very low strains, usually lower than 1%, but return actuation stresses of several GPa. Since both DEA and PPA are well understood, their combination is technologically feasible.

These complementary properties will be combined into active structures, with 1, 2, and 3-dimensional spatial variations in materials and electrodes, displaying a wealth of actuation modes and properties. A range of spectroscopic techniques will be applied to understand the interplay between two active materials; many of these methods were developed by the host. Continuum and finite element models ensure that experimental results can be explained by known physics. The proposer's expertise lies mainly in DEA.

This proposal aims to resume his research career, by diversifying his skills into the other main electric-field actuating material, the polymer ferroelectrets, in which the host is a leader. With his teaching skills and management experience, further complemented by the host, he will become a mature researcher, and a focal point for the interdisciplinary research in PPA and DEA.

Call for proposal

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