Dielectric Elastomer Actuators
"Remember Batmans's cape in The Dark Knight". That's how they got me hooked on this project. I didn't have interest in materials before this, but the idea of materials that could rapidly change properties was scintillating. Origami Engineering sounds pretty dope.
I conducted a year of research into a type of smart material known as Dielectric elastomers actuators under the Origami Engineering NSF grant. I had to get creative during this research; coming up with methods elastomer synthesis, test setups, experiment designs, and design of geometries to maximize actuation per unit energy input. These smart materials employ low modulus polymers, compliant electrodes, and high voltages (Power supply range 0- 30kV). The elastomer serves as the dielectric between the electrodes, like a capacitor. When voltage is applied to the setup, attractive forces between the electrodes squeeze the elastomer, actuating the entire set up.