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Published January 2012 | public
Journal Article

Dielectric elastomer composites


The coupled electromechanical response of electroactive dielectric composites is examined in the setting of small deformation and moderate electric field. In this setting, the mechanical stress depends quadratically on the electric field through a combination of material electrostriction and Maxwell stress. It is rigorously shown that the macroscopic mechanical stress of the composite also depends quadratically on the macroscopic electric field. It is further demonstrated that the effective electromechanical coupling can be computed from the examination of the uncoupled electrostatic and elastic problems. The resulting expressions suggest that the effective electromechanical coupling may be very large for microstructures that lead to significant fluctuations of the electric field. This idea is explored through examples involving sequential laminates. It is demonstrated that the electromechanical coupling – the macroscopic strain induced in the composite through the application of a unit electric field – can be amplified by many orders of magnitude by either a combination of constituent materials with high contrast or by making a highly complex and polydisperse microstructure. These findings suggest a path forward for overcoming the main limitation hindering the development of electroactive polymers.

Additional Information

© 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Received 30 December 2010; revised 1 August 2011; Accepted 10 August 2011. Available online 18 August 2011. This work draws from the doctoral thesis of Tian at the California Institute of Technology and Tevet-Deree at the Ben-Gurion University. This work was supported by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (Grant no. 2004146) as well as the US National Science Foundation (ITR Grant ACI-0204932).

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