Abstract: Advances in science and engineering enable compact polymeric devices that can be multifunctional and provide unpredicted additional functionality if flexible and stretchable. Dielectric elastomer Actuators (DEAs), also known as Artificial muscles, are soft voltage-controlled capacitors that employ elastomers and stretchable conductors and can provide large reversible deformation of several 100% under high voltage. Strategies to lower those driving voltages include permittivity enhancements and adjustments of mechanical properties of the soft polymers on the molecular up to the mesoscale and lowering the film thickness. Current DEA challenges are connected to 1) low stiffness, 2) continuous high levels of nonlinear deformation, and 3) complex electrode-material interactions. That complex interplay typically limits that soft technology and the lifetime of any application, e.g., haptics interphase for virtual reality (VR). A global market estimated at $12.9 Billion in 2020 and an expected prime user of soft stretchable, and biocompatible technologies. Introducing the challenge of material modifications, we explore in that talk material design strategies and their impact on the performance of DEAs and highlight several secure pathways. This talk also reviews the applications of artificial muscles for soft robotics, biomedical applications, and soft haptic interphases.
Bio: He earned his master’s in physics from the University of Potsdam (Germany) and will obtain Ph.D. in Soft Matter Physics later this year. He received awards from the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the International Rubber Conference in Beijing, and the University of Potsdam and has been collaborating with the Iowa State University since 2011 on bio-inspired sensing skins for Structural Health Monitoring. He has amassed more than 5 million Euro in research projects from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Union. He is an Editor with Frontiers for the sections Robotics and AI and the section Smart Materials. His research yielded 1 U.S. patent and 2 German patents and more than 50 articles in journals such as Advanced Functional Materials, Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids, and Applied Physics letters. He is actively exploring soft materials and developing strategies and technologies to overcome processing paradigms that permit compact and multifunctional soft transducers and innovative robotic systems for the biomedical field. In 2019, he joined the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as a research fellow and worked in the Harvard Materials Discovery and Applications Lab (Prof. David Clarke) and the Harvard Micro-robotics Lab (Prof. Robert Wood). He continued exploring dielectric failure in soft elastomers and advanced manufacturing technologies to avoid premature failure of soft dielectrics and carbon conductive materials for tunable windows and soft conductive haptic feedback systems for VR and medical devices. He is currently a research specialist at the Civil Construction & Environmental Engineering Department at Iowa State University and is developing structural colored materials for crack monitoring and active sensing.