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Stretchable and Transparent Hydrogels as Soft Conductors for Dielectric Elastomer Actuators

Baohong Chen's picture

       A soft ionic conductor can serve as an artificial nerve in an artificial muscle. A polyacrylamide hydrogel is synthesized containing a hygroscopic salt, lithium chloride. Two layers of the hydrogel are used as ionic conductors to sandwich a dielectric elastomer and fabricate a highly stretchable and transparent actuator. When the two layers of the hydrogels are subject to a voltage, the actuator reduces its thickness and expands. An areal strain of 134% is demonstrated. The voltage-strain curves are calculated by using a model that accounts for the elastic constraint of the hydrogel and the inhomogeneous deformation of the actuator. For actuators fabricated with the hydrogel of various thicknesses and with the dielectric elastomer of various prestretches, excellent agreements are found between experimental data and theoretical predictions. 

        Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics Volume 52Issue 16pages 1055–106015 August 2014, DOI: 10.1002/polb.23529.   Article linkage: 


Zhigang Suo's picture

Most hydrogels dry out in the open air.  However, hydrogels can be made to retain water by using descicant.  Such hydrogels are highly stretchable, transparent, water-retaining, ionic conductors.

At room temperature, a saturated aqueous solution of NaCl has a relative humidity of 75%, but a saturated aqueous solution of LiCl has a relative humidity of 11%.  Thus, a hydrogel containing LiCl is an excellent stretchable, transparent, ionic conductor.

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