A lightweight elastomer can stretch and contract when stimulated by low voltages, making it a promising material for artificial muscles.
Dielectric elastomers exhibit reversible physical deformations when stimulated by electricity, but previous attempts to make artificial muscles from such materials required cumbersome braces to prevent rupture during long stretches. To avoid using braces, Andrey Dobrynin at the University of Akron in Ohio, Sergei Sheiko at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their team developed a dielectric elastomer by linking together polymer strands in a bottlebrush-like structure. This resulted in a stronger and more stretchable material with a lower risk of rupture than current materials.
The synthetic elastomers could eventually have applications in fields including soft robotics, the authors say.
Adv. Mater. http://doi.org/f3s534 (2016)