Mar 27, 2017
Electroactive Polymers (EAP) Components – What’s Next?

For the first time, electroactive polymers (EAP) will enable manufacturers to mass produce EAP components.

Wacker’s ELASTOSIL® film, like all EAPs has dielectric properties capable of responding to electrical stimulus under certain conditions. When laminated with electrodes, the silicone films act as dielectric elastomers. The layers create a flexible capacitor that can store an electric charge. If the silicone capacitor is mechanically malformed, its capacitance is also altered. The changes, though very subtle, can be measured and therefore used for sensory purposes, for example to make body movements visible. (changes electrical energy to mechanical energy)

The highly uniform and continuous film ranges from 20μm to 400μm (as thin as one hair or the wall of a balloon) with less than five percent variation along the width.

Characteristics of silicone films

  • Dialectics – Silicone film is ideal for the manufacture of EAP-based technologies because of their excellent insulation and uniform dialectic properties.
  • Flexibility – Silicone film is very elastic and long-lasting. For instance, testing has shown that ELASTOSIL films can endure 10 million load cycles without experiencing weakness. Also, the silicone EAPs have mechanical properties that generally perform well across a wide variety of temperatures. This goes for silicone films as well.
  • Gas permeability – Silicone films allow water vapor and certain gases to pass through them, however not water. Only carbon dioxide, oxygen and water vapor can permeate the silicone layer and much faster than nitrogen. As a result, ELASTOSIL can be used to eliminate specific gases such as carbon dioxide.

These properties open up the gates to boundless technical applications on an industrial scale. Some of the possibilities include –

EAP electronics – Experts believe dielectric electroactive elastomers will soon be used with relays, switches and valves. Furthermore, EAP component technology could be applied to create shape-changing touchscreens that give visually impaired people the ability to read with their hands.

Industry – Hydraulic wave power generators may be replaced sometime in the future. By combining silicone films (flexible, robust, durable) and EAP technology, power generators could become almost maintenance-free. Initial prototypes using ELASTOSIL are presently being tested.

Summary

Thanks to their exceptional characteristics, ultrathin silicone films create the opportunity for a range of innovative EAP technology-based advances. Presently, Wacker is working with LEAP Technology to develop electronic components that can be discreetly placed together with textiles, e.g. precision films for wearables. The film-encased sensor component can then measure things like arm and leg movements for training athletes as well as the condition of a rehab patient.

Hisco carries a variety of Wacker products including Elastosil sheets.

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