September 12, Herbert Shea, Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory at EPFL

Untitled3:00 PM in Room 205, 8 St. Mary’s Street

Refreshments served at 2:45 PM

Miniaturized Dielectric Elastomer Actuators: Towards Intelligent Soft Machines

Abstract: Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs), often referred to as artificial muscles, are stretchable soft transducers consisting of an elastomer membrane sandwiched between two compliant electrodes. DEAs can be used as actuators with strains of over 200%, but also for energy harvesting, as sensors, switches and as lightweight structural elements. These attributes make them particularly well suited for intelligent deformable machines.

Our research centers on µm- to cm-scale miniaturized DEAs. We present the microfabrication, design and operation of a wide range of DEA devices, based on soft silicone elastomers and printed silicone-based conductive inks, for applications ranging from compliant grippers for grabbing small space debris, to foldable control surfaces for small remote controlled airplanes, to arrays of 100×100 µm2 sized devices to apply mechanical strain to biological cells, to fast (150 µs) tunable polymer lenses. We also present a soft 1 cm3 dielectric elastomer energy harvester, generating 4 mW at 1 Hz.

Our research goal is fully flexible smart machines that are reliable, self-powered, incorporating high strain, high energy-density silicone elastomers actuators, with integrated sensing and flexible printed control circuitry.

 

PDMS-based multi-segment gripper for debris manipulation.

PDMS-based multi-segment gripper for debris manipulation.

40 cm wingspan drone with flexible electroactive polymer control surfaces

40 cm wingspan drone with flexible electroactive polymer control surfaces

Array of 72 200µmx200µm planar actuators to apply mechanical strain to biological cells.

Array of 72 200µmx200µm planar actuators to apply mechanical strain to biological cells.

3-phase rotary motor driven by a 20 µm thick dielectric elastomer actuator.

3-phase rotary motor driven by a 20 µm thick dielectric elastomer actuator.

Biography: Herb Shea holds a Ph.D. (1997) in physics from Harvard University. After 2 years as a post-doctoral fellow at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, he joined Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, first as a member of technical staff then as the technical manager of the Microsystems Technology group, responsible for the reliability of optical MEMS products.

In 2004 Herb founded the Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory (LMTS) at the EPFL, in Switzerland, where he is an associate professor since 2011. His current research topics include elastomer-based actuators, sensors, and energy harvesters, micromachined ion propulsion, and tactile displays.

Herb has published over 50 papers in renowned peer-reviewed journals, and has given dozens of invited conference presentations in the fields of MEMS for space, MEMS reliability, and miniaturized dielectric elastomer actuators.

Faculty Host: David Bishop