It may well be that the requirement of your product or application is a good match for the uniqueness of Electroactive Polymers (EAP). LEAP Technology can help you and your company investigate the feasibility of dielectric elastomer (DE) / stretch sensors, actuators, or energy generators for your specific product or application.
Scientists and engineers have long been searching for materials that exhibit similar mechanical characteristics to natural muscle. Such materials 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 muscle characteristics. Like muscle, EAP is soft, can undergo large and rapid deformation, and provide controlled force.
Among the various sub-classes of EAP, dielectric elastomers 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 a combination of two or more within a single device.
WORKING PRINCIPLE – STRETCH 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.
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 change shape. Appropriate configuration and termination of the DE material can then provide effective force and displacement in a system or product.
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 cyclical 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.