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Theory of dielectric elastomers

Zhigang Suo's picture

In response to a stimulus, a soft material deforms, and the deformation provides a function. We call such a material a soft active material (SAM). This review focuses on one class of soft active materials: dielectric elastomers. Subject to a voltage, a membrane of a dielectric elastomer reduces thickness and expands area, possibly straining over 100%. The phenomenon is being developed as transducers for broad applications, including soft robots, adaptive optics, Braille displays, and electric generators.

This paper reviews the theory of dielectric elastomers, coupling large deformation and electric potential. The theory is developed within the framework of continuum mechanics and thermodynamics, and is motivated by molecular pictures and empirical observations. The theory is used to describe nonlinear and nonequilibrium behavior, such as electromechanical instability and viscoelasticity. It is hoped that the theory will aid in the creation of materials and devices.

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