Towards the Use of Dielectric Elastomer Actuators as Locomotive Devices for Millimeter-Scale Robots
Pearse, Justin Daminabo
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Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are electromechanical transducers that are promising for small scale applications. The work presented in this thesis seeks to develop DEAs as an actuation technology that would serve the purpose of ambulating millimeter-scale robots in a robust and predictable manner. To begin, the "planar" DEA configuration was characterized and the performances of various elastomers were investigated. Then, based on the requirements of a proposed robot walking gait, two principles were examined as means of converting in-plane actuation strain to bending actuation. Bending DEAs were fabricated and tested, and a maximum end displacement of 1.5 mm was achieved for a 10 mm long sample. Bending actuator design was optimized by maximizing both speed and payload capabilities. Finally, some challenges facing the design of robots ambulated by DEAs were outlined; of particular note is the DEAs' electrostatic interaction with each other and their surroundings.