Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs), unlike traditional actuators, are lightweight, soft, smart materials that are proving to be attractive in a broad range of potential applications such as robotic arms, artificial muscles, medical devices, stretchable sensors, grippers, loudspeakers, and automotive lightweighting. Though they have been known and studied for decades, their use is not widespead in part due to a number of practical implementation difficulties including the need for and handling of thin dielectric layers to reduce operating voltage, strechable and stackable electrodes that don’t overly degrade performance, and poor longevity due to electrical breakdown contributed by potential flaws in the thin film and material inclusions/irregularities. This paper investigates the construction of DEA multi-layer and single-layer articles, exploring the effect of non-negligible elastomer-based electrodes with various dielectric/electrode layer thickness ratios as well as the influence of stacked dielectric layers on breakdown voltage. A balance between actuator performance and the level of required voltage for operation is shown given a set of assumptions. Furthermore, the influence of stacked dielectric layers on breakdown voltage is demonstrated, confirming previous results performed with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF).

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