Compared to robots and devices made of rigid components, soft robots and flexible devices driven by soft active materials possess various advantages including high adaptability under extreme environment and compatibility with a human. Dielectric elastomer (DE) membrane, which is commonly used in building soft actuators, can achieve large actuation by the combined loadings of voltage-induced Maxwell stress and fluidic pressures (pneumatic and hydraulic pressure). This paper proposes a pneumatic–hydraulic coupled electromechanical actuator (PHCEA), which exhibits strong coupling effect of electromechanical actuation (the Maxwell stress on DE membrane), pneumatic and hydraulic pressures. Considering the moving boundary and state transition, a computational model has been developed to investigate the coupling behaviors of the PHCEA. The numerical result by this model is in accordance with the experimental measurements. The combination of experimental data and the theoretical result indicates that the state transition and moving boundary separate the potential region of electrical breakdown and mechanical damage. This model can be utilized as a practical method to characterize the performance and guide the design of soft devices. The experimental setup and computational method of the PHCEA bring new insights into the fabrication and characterization of soft robots, adaptive optics, and flexible bio-medical devices. The PHCEA possesses wide applications in underwater robots, soft muscles, and microfluidics systems. It can serve as the gas bladder of soft swimming robots, the soft actuator of hydraulic–pneumatic coupling systems, and the gas–liquid valve of flexible microfluidics systems.

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