Though the field of dielectric elastomer transducers has been around for several years, the vast majority of devices that appear in the literature on based on high loss acrylic elastomer and manually applied carbon (typically grease) electrodes. Though sufficient for quick demonstration and the macro scale, devices made using these methods typically possess low reproducibility and lack mechanical robustness. Moreover these methods and inadequate when attempting to fabricate transducers on a micro scale e.g. for producing micro-actuators for mechanical stimulation of biological cells.
High-resolution, large-area patterning of compliant silicone-carbon electrodes for dielectric elastomer transducers
We have developed a novel technique for the production of high-resolution compliant electrodes on silicone dielectric elastomer transducers. The method consists in casting compliant electrodes onto water-soluble sacrificial substrates (polyvinyl alcohol or PVA), and then patterning the electrode by laser ablation. The patterned electrodes are then transferred to a silicone membrane using oxygen plasma activation. The electrode substrate is subsequently removed by dissolving in hot water. The general fabrication process is summarized in the figure below.
Reprinted with permission from: O. A. Araromi, S. Rosset, and H. Shea, “High-resolution, large-area fabrication of compliant electrodes via laser ablation for robust, stretchable dielectric elastomer actuators and sensors,” ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2015. © 2015 American Chemical Society
Patterning by laser ablation provides the possibility for making intricate and high-resolution shapes (feature size < 100 µm demonstrated), as shown below (left). Casting the electrode layer enables large-area electrodes to be produced enabling the fabrication of large area arrays of devices (shown below right).
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