Commercial elastomer materials are available for dielectric electroactive polymer (DEAP) purposes but the applied commercial elastomers have not been developed with the specific application in mind. It is therefore obvious that optimization of the elastomer material should be possible. In this study we focus on optimization of the mechanical properties of the elastomer and show that it is possible to lower the elastic modulus and still not compromise the other required mechanical properties such as fast response, stability, low degree of viscous dissipation and high extensibility. The elastomers are prepared from a vinyl-terminated polydimethyl siloxane (PDMS) and a 4-functional crosslinker by a platinum-catalyzed hydrosilylation reaction between the two reactants. Traditionally, elastomers based on hydrosilylation are prepared via a ‘one-step two-pot’ procedure (with a mix A and a mix B mixed in a given ratio). An alternative network formulation method is adopted in this study in order to obtain an elastomeric system with controlled topology – a so-called bimodal network. Bimodal networks are synthesized using a ‘two-step four-pot’ mixing procedure which results in a nonhomogeneous network structure which is shown to lead to novel mechanical properties due to the low extensibility of the short chains and the high extensibility of the long chains. The first ensures stability and the last retards the rupture process thereby combining two desired properties for DEAP purposes without necessarily compromising the viscous dissipation. Several elastomers are prepared and tested for the linear viscoelastic behaviour, i.e. behaviour in the small-strain limit (up to approximately 10% strain). The bimodal networks are, however, capable of extensions up to several times their initial length but the focus here is the small-strain limit.
Proceedings of Spie, the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2011, Vol 7976, Issue 76762V