Core Technology

It may well be that the requirement of your product or application is a good match to the uniqueness of Electroactive Polymers (EAP). LEAP Technology can help you and your company investigate the feasibility of DE sensors, actuators, or energy generators for your specific product or application.

BACKGROUND

Scientists and engineers have long been searching for materials that exhibit similar mechanical characteristics to natural muscle. Such a material would enable an effective replacement of conventional sensing and actuation devices traditionally made from stiff, clunky materials. In this search for an artificial equivalent of muscle, electroactive polymers (EAP) have gained considerable attention as they come close to mimicking their characteristics. Like muscle, EAP is soft, can undergo large and fast deformation, and provide controlled force.

DIELECTRIC ELASTOMERS

Among the various sub-classes of EAP, dielectric elastomers (DE) have received the most commercial focus for use in products. This is due to their simple operation principle, industrial scale manufacturability and long lifetime. Core DE technology comprises an electrical insulating layer of elastomer sandwiched between two deformable layers of electrically conductive material (electrodes). This configuration of the core technology enables its use in mechanical sensors, actuators, energy generators, or combination of two or more in a single device.

film

WORKING PRINCIPLE – SENSORS

A rubbery nature enables mechanical DE sensors to be easily deformed by a machine or human. This deformation causes a change in the electrical property of DE sensor (the capacitance). This change of capacitance can be measured by simple electronics and converted into relevant units such as force, tension, pressure, angle, 3D motion or speed etc.

sensor

WORKING PRINCIPLE – ACTUATORS

Instead of deforming the DE component mechanically as in the sensor function, the material can be deformed electrically. This is achieved by charging the deformable electrodes causing an electrostatic attraction between them. This attraction of electrodes squeezes the insulating elastomer layer forcing it to deform. Appropriate configuration and termination of the DE material can then provide effective force and displacement in a system or product.

actuator

WORKING PRINCIPLE – GENERATORS

In generator mode, the DE devices are stretched and relaxed by an external mechanical input (wind, ocean waves, human for example) in a cyclic pattern. By controlling a corresponding cycling voltage on the generator, mechanical energy is converted to electrical and can be harvested and supplied to the grid.

DEVICE CONFIGURATIONS

The soft nature of DE technology enables the possibilities of utilizing it as novel sensors, actuators and generator designs that have not previously been possible with other technologies. The devices can be both configured to replace a conventional sensor or actuator, or to perform operations not possible with other transducers.

DE devices can be specifically designed to be compatible with complex systems. Examples of such are the human form, aerodynamic surfaces, hygienic environments or applications subject to shock and vibration whilst still providing effective sensing and actuation.

configurations

POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS

LEAP Technology has a wealth of experience in identifying and examining the use of DE technology in potential applications. DE devices have their highest value in applications involving biomechanics, aerodynamics, hygiene, energy efficiency, fast operation, and harsh environment (shock, vibration, temperature). In such applications the soft rubbery nature of DE combined with its fast response, lightweight, and its novel configuration can be best exploited.