Dielectric elastomer pump for artificial organisms(Proceedings Paper)
Bowers, A. E., Walters, P., Rossiter, J. and Ieropoulos, I. (2011) Dielectric elastomer pump for artificial organisms(Proceedings Paper). In: Carpi, F. and Bar-Cohen, Y., eds. (2011) Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2011 (Proceedings Volume). (7976) Proceedings of SPIE. SPIE. ISBN 9780819485380
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.880440
This paper presents a bio-inspired, dielectric elastomer (DE) based tubular pumping unit, developed for eventual use as a component of an artificial digestive tract onboard a microbial fuel cell powered robot (EcoBot). The pump effects fluid displacement by direct actuation of the tube wall as opposed to excitation by an external body. The actuator consists of a DE tube moulded from silicone, held in a negative pressure chamber, which is used for prestraining the tube. The pump is coupled with custom designed polymeric check valves in order to rectify the fluid flow and assess the performance of the unit. The valves exhibited the necessary low opening pressures required for use with the actuator. The tube's actuation characteristics were measured both with and without liquid in the system. Based on these data the optimal operating conditions for the pump are discussed. The pump and valve system has achieved flowrates in excess of 40μl/s. This radially contracting/expanding actuator element is the fundamental component of a peristaltic pump. This 'soft pump' concept is suitable for bio mimetic robotic systems, or for the medical or food industries where hard contact with the delivered substrate may be undesirable. Future work will look at connecting multiple tubes in series in order to achieve peristalsis.