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

More articles from Trade Fair News:

nachricht Robot-assisted sensor system for the quality monitoring of hybrid parts and components
13.06.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP

nachricht Non-destructive tomographic measuring method for geometrically complex microoptics
12.06.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnologie IPT

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: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks

17.06.2019 | Information Technology

Climate Change in West Africa

17.06.2019 | Earth Sciences

Robotic fish to replace animal testing

17.06.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>