Dielectric elastomer actuation performance enhancement, higher order modelling and self-sensing control

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


There is a growing interest in the field of Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs).A DEA consists of a thin DE lm coated with a compliant electrode. It expandsin planar directions and contracts in thickness under a driving voltage. Becauseof the similar actuation capability compared with human muscles, it is oftenreferred as artificial muscle. One possible application is to integrate the DEA inwearable devices for tremor suppression. In this thesis, the development of theDEA has been advanced towards this application in three aspects: performanceenhancement, modelling accuracy and self-sensing control.The results presented demonstrate that the combination of pre-strain and motion constraining enhances the force output of the DEA significantly but it also leads to the pre-mature electric breakdown that shortens the operational life. This drawback was suppressed by optimising the electrode configuration to avoid the electrically weak regions with low thickness across the DE lm, together with the lead contact o the active electrode region. The durability of the enhanced DEA was therefore improved significantly. Polyacrylate, a commonly used DE, was characterised for dynamic mechanical loading and electrical actuation. The conventional Kelvin-Voigt model was proved to be deficient in simulating the viscoelastic behaviour of polyacrylate in the frequency domain. The error in modelling was substantially reduced using a higher material model that contains multiple spring-damper combinations. It allows the system dynamics to be shaped over frequency ranges. A detailed procedure was given to guide the parameter identification in higher order material model.A novel self-sensing mechanism that does not require superposition of drivingvoltage and excitation signal was also designed. It reconfigures the conventionalDEA to have separate electrode regions for sensing and actuating. As the DElm deforms under driving voltage, the capacitive change in the electrode regionfor sensing was measured via a capacitor bridge and used as the feedback foractuation control. The self-sensing DEA can, therefore, be implemented with anyhigh voltage power supply. Moreover, the sensing performance is demonstratedto have improved consistency without interference of the electrical field. It alsohas a unique feature of DE lm wrinkling detection.
Date of Award18 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPatrick Keogh (Supervisor) & Pejman Iravani (Supervisor)


  • Dielectric elastomer actuators
  • performance enhancement
  • Viscoelasticity
  • material modelling
  • self-sensing

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