Electro-elastomers: Large deformation analysis of silicone membranes

N. C. Goulbourne, E. M. Mockensturm, M. I. Frecker

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119 Scopus citations


Electro-elastomers are large strain smart materials capable of both sensing and actuation. Typical electro-elastomer setups consist of either a silicone or acrylic membrane sandwiched between two compliant grease electrodes. Silicone electro-elastomers have maximum elastic strains between 200% and 350%. Acrylic electro-elastomers are more widely employed due to larger actuation strains but are softer than silicone and have a lower force output [Goulbourne, N.C., Frecker, M., Mockensturm, E.M., Snyder, A.J., 2003. Modeling of a dielectric elastomer diaphragm for a prosthetic blood pump. In: Proceedings of SPIE, Smart Structures and Materials: EAPAD, San Diego; Goulbourne, N.C., Mockensturm, E.M., Frecker, M., 2005b. Quasi-static and dynamic inflation of a dielectric elastomer membrane. In: Proceedings of SPIE, Smart Structures and Materials: EAPAD, San Diego]. A numerical formulation for the large deformation response of electro-elastomer membranes subject to electromechanical loading is derived in this paper. The approach is based on modifying the elastic membrane theory of Green, Adkins, and Rivlin [Adkins, J.E., Rivlin, R.S., 1952. Large elastic deformations of isotropic materials IX. The deformation of thin shells. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A Mathematical and Physical Sciences 244, 505-531; Green, A.E., Adkins, J.E., 1970. Large Elastic Deformations. Oxford University Press, London]. The electro-elastic stress state is defined as the combination of the electrical Maxwell stress and the mechanical stress for hyperelastic materials [Goulbourne, N.C., Mockensturm, E.M., Frecker, M., 2005a. A nonlinear model for dielectric elastomer membranes. ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics 72, (6) 899-906]. This paper augments our previous work by presenting a mathematical solution procedure for simulating the field responsive behavior of silicone electro-elastomers configured for both in-plane and out-of-plane deformation. Thin axisymmetric membranes subject to electromechanical loads are the focus of this investigation. The numerical analysis shows that there is a delicate balance between the electrical and the mechanical portions of the stress, which must be maintained for the overall stress to remain tensile and by extension the electro-elastomer to remain stable. It is shown that at very high voltages the stress can become negative ultimately leading to transducer failure. For sensing applications, the varying capacitive behavior of electro-elastomers is used to extract information about the membrane's deformed state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2609-2626
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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