Acrylic copolymers, silicone, and thermoplastic block copolymers have been investigated as artificial muscles. These dielectric elastomers exhibit high actuation strain, pressure, and specific energy density when a high driving voltage is applied across the thin polymer films. I will discuss the chemical and processing aspects that are critical to achieving high actuation performance. One successful example is the highly prestrained acrylic elastomer. We have developed interpenetrating polymer networks (IPN) in which the acrylic network is under high tension balanced by the compression of an additive network were investigated to further enhanced actuation performance. The IPN films at zero or nominal prestrain showed up to 300% actuation strain. The calculated values of maximum actuation energy density and electromechanical coupling factor are 3.5 J/g and 93.7%, respectively. Important actuators enabled by the IPN films and prestrained acrylic films will also be presented.
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