The innovation engine for new materials

Amalie Atassi

Amalie Atassi


Materials Science and Engineering


University of Florida


Veronica Reynolds

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Michael Chabinyc

Faculty Sponsor's Department(s): 


Project Title: 

Characterization of Soft Dielectric Elastomers with Unique Mechanical Properties

Project Description: 

This project explores the mechanical and electronic properties of soft, solvent-free elastomers and their applications in fields such as soft robotics and biosensing. Soft, elastic materials are critical for the future of these fields. Elastomers are polymers with low elastic moduli that can be deformed by significant amounts and subsequently return to their original shape. However, there exists a lower limit on their modulus due to the concentration of physically restrictive features in the molecular network such as crosslinks and entanglements. One tactic to push this limit and reduce the modulus is to swell the network with a solvent, thereby creating a gel. Although introducing solvent decreases the modulus, it also leads to undesirable properties such as sensitivity to evaporation, leachability, and brittleness. An alternative to adding solvent is to modify the chemical structure by fully incorporating side chains that effectively solvate the backbones to which they are attached, creating a stable network. We compare our novel polymer systems to polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a well-known, commercially-available elastomer based on a linear polymer. Rheometry measurements and impedance spectroscopy are used on the typical and redesigned PDMS elastomers to determine their mechanical moduli, measure their dielectric properties, and test their performances in a simple capacitive pressure sensor design. We demonstrate that higher sensitivity pressure sensors may be achieved through the implementation of this novel polymer architecture.