Dielectric Electro-Active Polymers (DEAP’s) can achieve substantial deformation (>300% strain) while, compared to their ionic counterparts, sustaining large forces. This makes them attractive for various actuation and sensing applications such as light weight and energy efficient valve and pumping systems. This paper provides a systematic experimental investigation of the quasi-static and dynamic electro-mechanical properties of a commercially available dielectric EAP actuator. In order to completely characterize the fully coupled behavior force vs. displacement measurements at various constant voltages and force vs. voltage measurements at various fixed displacements are conducted. The experiments are conducted with a particular focus on the hysteretic and rate-dependent material behavior. These experiments provide insight into the viscoelastic and electrostatic behavior inherent in DEAP material. Typical operating conditions of the actuator require it to have a biased force, such as a spring. Experiments are conducted to observe the actuators performance under these conditions. The force and stroke capabilities are investigated while the actuator is loaded with different springs and at a variety of pre-stretch levels. The resulting behavior of the spring loaded actuator is then correlated to the viscoelastic effects observed during the electro-mechanical characterization.

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