Optimal energy-harvesting cycles for load-driven soft dielectric generators

Roberta Springhetti, Eliana Bortot, G deBotton, Massimiliano Gei

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Optimization of a plane, soft dielectric elastomer generator is performed in this work. The configuration is of a thin dielectric film coated by stretchable electrodes at both sides that is first stretched, then charged, released, and finally the charge is harvested at a higher electric potential. The amount of energy extracted by this cycle is bounded by the electric breakdown and the ultimate stretch ratio of the film as well as by structural instabilities due to loss of tension and electromechanical instability. To identify the optimal cycle that complies with these limits we formulate a constraint optimization problem and solve it with a dedicated solver for two typical classes of elastic dielectrics. As anticipated, we find that the performance of the generator depends critically on the ultimate stretch ratio of the film. However, more surprising is our finding of a universal limit on the dielectric strength of the film beyond which the optimal cycle is independent of this parameter. Thus, we reveal that, regardless of how large the dielectric strength of the material is, there is an upper bound on the amount of harvested energy that depends only on the ultimate stretch ratio. We conclude the work with detailed calculations of the optimal cycles for two commercially available soft elastomers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFourth international conference on Electromechanically Active Polymer (EAP) transducers & artificial muscles
Subtitle of host publicationEuroEAP Conference 2014
StatePublished - Jan 2014


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