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Electroactive Polymers (EAPs)

Electroactive polymers are materials that have been modified in such a way that they can convert electrical impulses into mechanical movement – a principle that enables the production of capacitive sensors, actuators and generators. Its NEXIPAL ® and ELASTOSIL ® Film products give WACKER an active presence on this market.

Intelligent sensors measure changes in capacitance and thus record expansive and compressive movements. NEXIPAL ® sensors made from ELASTOSIL ® Film are extremely thin and flexible, making them ideal for smart textiles and recording body movements in medical, athletic and lifestyle applications. In addition, NEXIPAL ® sensors are perfectly suited to environments with a variety of temperature demands.

NEXIPAL ® Act – components made from ELASTOSIL ® Film and flexible electrodes – are used in the field of actuator technology, where they show considerable potential for saving energy and weight relative to conventional technologies. Applications include valves, pumps, relays, artificial muscles, grippers and sound systems.

Other benefits include:

  • Proportional switching
  • Long stroke lengths
  • Actuator-sensor combinations possible
  • High actuation speed
  • Noiseless
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible and elastic
  • Energy saving

Here, the mode of operation is the opposite of that for actuators. In this case, NEXIPAL ® components made from ELASTOSIL ® Film and flexible electrodes are used for converting mechanical work into electrical energy. This enables novel, environmentally friendly energy-generation systems such as tidal power plants.

A buoy is connected to a generator consisting of NEXIPAL ® laminates made from ELASTOSIL ® Film and suitable electrode material.

How NEXIPAL ® Laminates Work

funktionsweise eines Aktuators und Sensors aus NEXIPAL®-Laminat

NEXIPAL ® laminates are composed of at least one ultrathin silicone film (ELASTOSIL® film) and two electrodes. If a voltage source is applied, the laminate operates as an actuator.

funktionsweise eines Aktuators und Sensors aus NEXIPAL®-Laminat

Turning on a voltage source charges one electrode positively and the other negatively. The electrodes attract one another and deform the silicone film. As silicones are virtually incompressible, the volume stays the same in that the silicone film becomes thinner, yet wider. If the voltage is turned off, the silicone film pushes the electrodes apart again.

funktionsweise eines Aktuators und Sensors aus NEXIPAL®-Laminat

An EAP sensor works in a similar way: a measuring instrument is connected to the NEXIPAL ® laminate to measure the capacitance.

The NEXIPAL ® laminate can now be deformed by compressive or tensile movements. The electrostatic field between the electrodes changes depending on how far apart the electrodes are.

funktionsweise eines Aktuators und Sensors aus NEXIPAL®-Laminat

It is enough to apply a slight pressure with your finger to bring the electrodes closer together. The distance between them changes and so does the capacitance. If you remove your finger, the silicone film pushes the electrodes back into their original state.