The Electrical Breakdown of Thin Dielectric Elastomers: Thermal Effects

Shamsul Bin Zakaria, Peter H. F. Morshuis, Benslimane Mohamed Yahia, Krist Gernaey, Anne Ladegaard Skov

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Dielectric elastomers are being developed for use in actuators, sensors and generators to be used in various applications, such as artificial eye lids, pressure sensors and human motion energy generators. In order to obtain maximum efficiency, the devices are operated at high electrical fields. This increases the likelihood for electrical breakdown significantly. Hence, for many applications the performance of the dielectric elastomers is limited by this risk of failure, which is triggered by several factors. Amongst others thermal effects may strongly influence the electrical breakdown strength. In this study, we model the electrothermal breakdown in thin PDMS based dielectric elastomers in order to evaluate the thermal mechanisms behind the electrical failures. The objective is to predict the operation range of PDMS based dielectric elastomers with respect to the temperature at given electric field. We performed numerical analysis with a quasi-steady state approximation to predict thermal runaway of dielectric elastomer films. We also studied experimentally the effect of temperature on dielectric properties of different PDMS dielectric elastomers. Different films with different percentages of silica and permittivity enhancing filler were selected for the measurements. From the modeling based on the fitting of experimental data, it is found that the electrothermal breakdown of the materials is strongly influenced by the increase in both dielectric permittivity and conductivity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE : Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices, EAPAD 2014
Number of pages11
PublisherSPIE - International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication date2014
ISBN (Print)9780819499820
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventSPIE Smart Structures/NDE: Smart Structures and Materials & Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring - Town & Country Resort and Convention Cente, San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: 9 Mar 201413 Mar 2014


ConferenceSPIE Smart Structures/NDE
LocationTown & Country Resort and Convention Cente
CountryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA
Internet address


  • DEAP
  • PDMS
  • Electrothermal breakdown
  • Numerical method

Cite this

Zakaria, S. B., Morshuis, P. H. F., Yahia, B. M., Gernaey, K., & Skov, A. L. (2014). The Electrical Breakdown of Thin Dielectric Elastomers: Thermal Effects. In Proceedings of SPIE: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices, EAPAD 2014 SPIE - International Society for Optical Engineering.