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Hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic actuators with muscle-like performance

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Science  05 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6371, pp. 61-65
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6139

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Liquids show their strength

Dielectric elastomer actuators are electrically powered muscle mimetics that offer high actuation strain and high efficiency but are limited by failure caused by high electric fields and aging. Acome et al. used a liquid dielectric, rather than an elastomeric polymer, to solve a problem of catastrophic failure in dielectric elastomer actuators. The dielectric's liquid nature allowed it to self-heal—something that would not be possible with a solid dielectric. The approach allowed the authors to exploit electrostatic and hydraulic forces to achieve muscle-like contractions in a powerful but delicate gripper.

Science, this issue p. 61

Abstract

Existing soft actuators have persistent challenges that restrain the potential of soft robotics, highlighting a need for soft transducers that are powerful, high-speed, efficient, and robust. We describe a class of soft actuators, termed hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators, which harness a mechanism that couples electrostatic and hydraulic forces to achieve a variety of actuation modes. We introduce prototypical designs of HASEL actuators and demonstrate their robust, muscle-like performance as well as their ability to repeatedly self-heal after dielectric breakdown—all using widely available materials and common fabrication techniques. A soft gripper handling delicate objects and a self-sensing artificial muscle powering a robotic arm illustrate the wide potential of HASEL actuators for next-generation soft robotic devices.

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