A biologically inspired artificial muscle based on fiber-reinforced and electropneumatic dielectric elastomers

Lei LIU, Chi ZHANG, Meng LUO, Xi CHEN, Dichen LI, Hualing CHEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Dielectric elastomers (DEs) have great potential for use as artificial muscles because of the following characteristics: electrical activity, fast and large deformation under stimuli, and softness as natural muscles. Inspired by the traditional McKibben actuators, in this study, we developed a cylindrical soft fiber-reinforced and electropneumatic DE artificial muscle (DEAM) by mimicking the spindle shape of natural muscles. Based on continuum mechanics and variation principle, the inhomogeneous actuation of DEAMs was theoretically modeled and calculated. Prototypes of DEAMs were prepared to validate the design concept and theoretical model. The theoretical predictions are consistent with the experimental results; they successfully predicted the evolutions of the contours of DEAMs with voltage. A pneumatically supported high prestretch in the hoop direction was achieved by our DEAM prototype without buckling the soft fibers sandwiched by the DE films. Besides, a continuously tunable prestretch in the actuation direction was achieved by varying the supporting pressure. Using the theoretical model, the failure modes, maximum actuations, and critical voltages were analyzed; they were highly dependent on the structural parameters, i.e., the cylinder aspect ratio, prestretch level, and supporting pressure. The effects of structural parameters and supporting pressure on the actuation performance were also investigated to optimize the DEAMs. © 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number085018
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Volume26
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by the Major Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51290294), the Foundation for Innovative Research Groups of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 11321062), the Open Foundation of State key laboratory (Grant No. sklms2016003) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 11402184).

Keywords

  • Artificial muscle
  • Electropneumatic actuation mechanism
  • Fiber-reinforced dielectric elastomer
  • Inhomogeneous actuation

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