This electronic active material converts a voltage input to a mechanical force and mechanical displacement output. As compared to prior dielectric elastomer (DE) systems, the material has reduced electrode spacing, which lowers significantly the required operating voltage. In addition, the inclusion of a combination of conducting and/or non-conducting reinforcing fibers greatly enhances the strength of the material, without weight penalty.
The technology is a means of fabricating DE composite materials, i.e., materials that respond mechanically to applied voltage with displacement or force, with improved characteristics compared to currently available materials. By coating electrodes with uncured elastomer in liquid form, and thereafter assembling the electrode components, the electrodes can be woven into a fabric or fabricated in sheets. The result is a DE material that contracts upon activation, much like muscle tissue, rather than expands like conventional DE materials. Actuator forces are also greater than were possible previously. Moreover, the more precise control over electrode spacing leads to lower operating voltages.