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Title: Dielectric elastomer actuators in electro-responsive surfaces based on tunable wrinkling and the robotic arm for powerful and continuous movement
Author: Lin, I-Ting
ISNI:       0000 0004 7661 1932
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) have been used for artificial muscles for years. Recently the DEA-based deformable surfaces have demonstrated controllable microscale roughness, ease of operation, fast response, and possibilities for programmable control. DEA muscles used in bioinspired robotic arms for large deformation and strong force also become desirable for their efficiency, low manufacturing cost, high force-to-weight ratio, and noiseless operation. The DEA-based responsive surfaces in microscale roughness control, however, exhibit limited durability due to irreversible dielectric breakdown. Lowering device voltage to avoid this issue is hindered by an inadequate understanding of the electrically-induced wrinkling deformation as a function of the deformable dielectric film thickness. Also, the programmable control and geometric analysis of the structured surface deformation have not yet been fully explored. Current methods to generate anisotropic wrinkles rely on mechanical pre-loading such as stretching or bending, which complicates the fabrication and operation of the devices. With a fixed mechanical pre-loading, the device can only switch between the flat state and the preset wrinkling state. In this thesis, we overcome these shortcomings by demonstrating a simple method for fabricating fault-tolerant electro-responsive surfaces and for controlling surface wrinkling patterns. The DEA-based system can produce different reversible surface topographies (craters, irregular wrinkles, structured wrinkles) upon the geometrical design of electrode and application of voltage. It remains functional due to its ability to self-insulate breakdown faults even after multiple high voltage breakdowns, and the induced breakdown punctures can be used for amplification of local electric fields for wrinkle formation at lower applied voltages. We enhance fundamental understanding of the system by using different analytical models combined with numerical simulation to discuss the mechanism and critical conditions for wrinkle formation, and compare it with the experimental results from surface topography, critical field to induce wrinkles in films of different thickness, and wrinkling patterns quantitatively analysed by different disorder metrics. Based on the results, we demonstrate its wide applicability in adjustable transparency films, dynamic light-grating filter, molding for static surface patterns, and multi-stable mirror-diffusor-diffraction grating device. For DEAs used for macroscopic-scale deformation in robotic arms, the main issue that undermines the performance of DEA muscles is the trade-off between strong force and large displacement, which limits the durability and range of potential robotic and automation applications of DEA-driven devices. In this thesis, this challenge is tackled by using DEAs in loudspeaker configuration for independent scaling-up of force and displacement, developing a theoretical prediction to optimise the operation of such DEAs in bioinspired antagonistic system to maximise speed and power of the robotic arm, and designing a clutch-gear-shaft mechanical system collaborating with the muscles to decouple the displacement and output force. Therefore, the trade-off between force and displacement in traditional DEA muscles can be resolved. The mechanical system can also convert the short linear spurt to an unlimited rotary motion. Combining these advantages, continuous movement with high output force can be accomplished.
Supervisor: Kumar, Ramachandran ; Smoukov, Stoyan Sponsor: Cambridge Trust ; Ministry of Education ; Taiwan
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: dielectric elastomer actuator ; DEA ; electroactive polymer ; EAP ; responsive surface ; smart optics ; tunable transmittance ; tunable grating ; surface topography ; surface patterning ; surface wrinkles ; robotic arm ; antagonistic system ; loudspeaker configuration ; clutch system ; scalable force ; continuous movement