Rigidity-tuning conductive elastomer

Wanliang Shan, Stuart Diller, Abbas Tutcuoglu, Carmel Majidi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We introduce a conductive propylene-based elastomer (cPBE) that rapidly and reversibly changes its mechanical rigidity when powered with electrical current. The elastomer is rigid in its natural state, with an elastic (Young's) modulus of 175.5 MPa, and softens when electrically activated. By embedding the cPBE in an electrically insulating sheet of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), we create a cPBE-PDMS composite that can reversibly change its tensile modulus between 37 and 1.5 MPa. The rigidity change takes ∼6 s and is initiated when a 100 V voltage drop is applied across the two ends of the cPBE film. This magnitude of change in elastic rigidity is similar to that observed in natural skeletal muscle and catch connective tissue. We characterize the tunable load-bearing capability of the cPBE-PDMS composite with a motorized tensile test and deadweight experiment. Lastly, we demonstrate the ability to control the routing of internal forces by embedding several cPBE-PDMS 'active tendons' into a soft robotic pneumatic bending actuator. Selectively activating the artificial tendons controls the neutral axis and direction of bending during inflation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065001
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial muscle
  • conductive elastomer
  • rigidity tuning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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