Applications of pressure-sensitive dielectric elastomer sensors
Dielectric elastomer sensors for the measurement of compression loads with high sensitivity are described. The basic design of the sensors exhibits two profiled surfaces between which an elastomer film is confined. All components of the sensor were prepared with silicone whose stiffness can be varied in a wide range. Depending on details of the sensor design, various effects contribute to the enhancement of the capacitance. The intermediate elastomer film is stretched upon compression and electrode layers on the elastomer profiles and in the elastomer film approach each other. Different designs of the pressure sensor give rise to very different sensor characteristics in terms of the dependence of electric capacitance on compression force. Due to their inherent flexibility, the pressure sensors can be used on compliant substrates such as seats or beds or on the human body. This gives rise to numerous possible applications. The contribution describes also some examples of possible sensor applications. A glove was equipped with various sensors positioned at the finger tips. When grabbing an object with the glove, the sensors can detect the gripping forces of the individual fingers with high sensitivity. In a demonstrator of the glove equipped with seven sensors, the capacitances representing the gripping forces are recorded on a display. In another application example, a lower limb prosthesis was equipped with a pressure sensor to detect the load on the remaining part of the leg and the load is displayed in terms of the measured capacitance. The benefit of such sensors is to detect an eventual overload in order to prevent possible pressure sores. A third example introduces a seat load sensor system based on four extended pressure sensor mats. The sensor system detects the load distribution of a person on the seat. The examples emphasize the high performance of the new pressure sensor technology.