Enhanced Electro-actuation in Dielectric Elastomers: The Nonlinear Effect of Free Ions

Bin Zheng, Xingkun Man, David Andelman*, Masao Doi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plasticized poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) is a jelly-like soft dielectric material that attracted substantial interest recently as a new type of electro-active polymers. Under electric fields of several hundred volt/mm, PVC gels undergo large deformations. These gels can be used as artificial muscles and other soft robotic devices, with striking deformation behavior that is quite different from conventional dielectric elastomers. Here, we present a simple model for the electro-activity of PVC gels and show a nonlinear effect of free ions on its dielectric behaviors. It is found that their particular deformation behavior is due to an electro-wetting effect and to a change in their interfacial tension. In addition, we derive analytical expressions for the surface tension as well as for the apparent dielectric constant of the gel. The theory indicates that the size of the mobile free ions has a crucial role in determining the electro-induced deformation, opening up the way to novel and innovative designs of electro-active gel actuators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-502
Number of pages5
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2021


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