An all-organic composite actuator material with a high dielectric constant

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Electroactive polymers (EAPs) can behave as actuators, changing their shape in response to electrical stimulation. EAPs that are controlled by external electric fields—referred to here as field-type EAPs—include ferroelectric polymers, electrostrictive polymers, dielectric elastomers and liquid crystal polymers1,2,3,4,5,6. Field-type EAPs can exhibit fast response speeds, low hysteresis1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and strain levels far above those of traditional piezoelectric materials4,5,6,9,10, with elastic energy densities even higher than those of piezoceramics4,5,9,10,11. However, these polymers also require a high field (>70 V µm-1) to generate such high elastic energy densities (>0.1 J cm-3; refs 4, 5, 9, 10). Here we report a new class of all-organic field-type EAP composites, which can exhibit high elastic energy densities induced by an electric field of only 13 V µm-1. The composites are fabricated from an organic filler material possessing very high dielectric constant dispersed in an electrostrictive polymer matrix. The composites can exhibit high net dielectric constants while retaining the flexibility of the matrix. These all-organic actuators could find applications as artificial muscles, ‘smart skins’ for drag reduction, and in microfluidic systems for drug delivery1,2,3,12.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: The strain amplitude as a function of the applied-field amplitude measured at room temperature.
Figure 3: Dielectric properties of the all-organic composites.


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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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Correspondence to Q. M. Zhang.

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Zhang, Q., Li, H., Poh, M. et al. An all-organic composite actuator material with a high dielectric constant. Nature 419, 284–287 (2002) doi:10.1038/nature01021

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