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A mathematical model for cylindrical, fiber reinforced electro-pneumatic actuators. (English) Zbl 1236.74059
Summary: In recent years, dielectric elastomers have received increasing attention due to their unparalleled large strain actuation response (>100%). The force output, however, has remained a major limiting factor for many applications. To address this limitation, a model for a fiber reinforced dielectric elastomer actuator based on the deformation mechanism of McKibben actuators is presented. In this novel configuration, the outer cylindrical surface of a dielectric elastomer is enclosed by a network of helical fibers that are thin, flexible and inextensible. This configuration yields an axially contractile actuator, in contrast to unreinforced actuators which extend. The role of the fiber network is twofold: (i) to serve as reinforcement to improve the load-bearing capability of dielectric elastomers, and (ii) to render the actuator inextensible in the axial direction such that the only free deformation path is simultaneous radial expansion and axial contraction. In this paper, a mathematical model of the electromechanical response of fiber reinforced dielectric elastomers is derived. The model is developed within a continuum mechanics framework for large deformations. The cylindrical electro-pneumatic actuator is modeled by adapting Green and Adkins’ theory of reinforced cylinders to account for the applied electric field. Using this approach, numerical solutions are obtained assuming a Mooney-Rivlin material model. The results indicate that the relationship between the contractile force and axial shortening is bilinear within the voltage range considered. The characteristic response as a function of various system parameters such as the fiber angle, inflation pressure, and the applied voltage are reported. In this paper, the elastic portion of the modeling approach is validated using experimental data for McKibben actuators.

MSC:
74E30 Composite and mixture properties
74F15 Electromagnetic effects in solid mechanics
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