Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Engineers at Saarland University turn polymer films into self-sensing high-tech actuators

26.03.2018

They might only be made from thin silicon film, but they can squeeze down hard, deliver a powerful thrust, vibrate or hold any required position. And because they can act as sensors, they are becoming important tools in technical applications. Stefan Seelecke and his team at Saarland University are developing a new generation of polymer film-based engineering components that can be used as continuous switches, self-metering valves, motorless pumps or even as tactile aids for touchscreens. The technology needs neither rare earths nor copper, it is cheap to produce and consumes very little energy and components made using it are astonishingly light.

The engineering team from Saarland University is in Hannover to look for industrial partners interested in developing the new technology.


To showcase their technology at Hannover Messe, the engineers Philipp Linnebach (r.) and Paul Motzki (l.) have come up with a playful way of demonstrating its capabilities.

Credit: Oliver Dietze


Professor Stefan Seelecke

Credit: Oliver Dietze

The team will be showcasing the potential of their technology at Hannover Messe from the 23rd to the 27th of April at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand (Hall 2, Stand B46) where they will be demonstrating how these electroactive films respond when they come into contact with other objects.

Equipped only with a variable electrical voltage, researchers at Saarland University can not only make an ultrathin silicon film change shape – compressing it in one direction while it expands in the other, they can also get it to perform complex choreographies – from high-frequency oscillations to continuously variable flexing motions. Films with these properties have the potential to be used as novel drives and actuators.

‘The two sides of a polymer membrane are coated with an electrically conducting layer. This enables us to apply a voltage to the polymer,’ explains Professor Stefan Seelecke from the Department of Intelligent Material Systems at Saarland University. Films that have been treated in this way are called ‘electroactive’ and these polymer systems are known as ‘electroactive polymers’ or ‘dielectric elastomers’.

If the engineers alter the applied electric field, the electrostatic attractive forces change accordingly and the film gets thinner while its area enlarges. When controlled by algorithms running in the background, this rather nondescript piece of polymer with a black coating transforms into a high-tech component that can be precisely controlled by an electric voltage.

‘We use the film itself as a position sensor. The component is not just an actuator, but also has sensory properties,’ says Stefan Seelecke. The research team can very precisely assign changes in the position of the film to changes in the film’s capacitance. ‘Measuring the capacitance of this dielectric elastomer allows us to infer the mechanical deformation of the film,’ explains Philipp Linnebach, a research assistant working on the new film-based drive systems and studying for a doctoral degree in Seelecke’s team. This allows specific motion sequences to be calculated precisely and programmed in a control unit.

Seelecke’s research team at Saarland University and at the Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology (ZeMA) is developing the film in order to produce a wide variety of engineering components. Examples include a precision self-metering valve that operates without needing to be driven by compressed air or liquids, pump drives that do not require a conventional motor, or buttons for switching things on or off.

‘These components are highly energy-efficient and the film does not require any energy in order to maintain a specific position. It only needs energy when it changes its position,’ explains doctoral research student Paul Motzki, who is also a research assistant in Prof. Seelecke's group. When used as a pneumatic valve, the energy efficiency is about 500 times greater than that of a conventional solenoid valve.

To showcase their technology at Hannover Messe, the engineers have come up with a playful way of demonstrating its capabilities. If a ball falls onto the film, the film can measure the extent to which it has been deformed. The film not only provides information about the height from which the ball fell and its acceleration, it also fires the ball back.

Press photographs are available at https://www.uni-saarland.de/aktuelles/presse/pressefotos.html and can be used free of charge. Please read and comply with the conditions of use.

Contact for press enquiries:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Seelecke, Department of Intelligent Material Systems at Saarland University: Tel. +49 681 302-71341, Email: stefan.seelecke@imsl.uni-saarland.de
Philipp Linnebach, Tel.: +49 681 85787-96; Email: philipp.linnebach@imsl.uni-saarland.de
Paul Motzki, Tel.: +49 681 85787-545; Email: p.motzki@zema.de

German Version of the release:
https://www.uni-saarland.de/nc/aktuelles/artikel/nr/18796.html

The Saarland Research and Innovation Stand is organized by Saarland University's Contact Centre for Technology Transfer (KWT). KWT is the central point of contact for companies interested in exploring opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with researchers at Saarland University. http://www.uni-saarland.de/kwt

Background:
ZeMA – Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology in Saarbrücken is a research hub for collaborative projects involving researchers from Saarland University, Saarland University of Applied Sciences (htw saar) and industrial partners. ZeMA is home to a large number of industry-specific development projects that aim to transform research findings into practical industrial applications.
http://www.zema.de/

Claudia Ehrlich | Universität des Saarlandes
Further information:
http://www.uni-saarland.de

Further reports about: Automation ZeMA energy efficiency polymer films

All articles from Trade Fair News >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magic number colloidal clusters

13.12.2018 | Life Sciences

UNLV study unlocks clues to how planets form

13.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Live from the ocean research vessel Atlantis

13.12.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>