Soft actuators are compliant material-based devices capable of producing large deformation upon external stimuli. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) are a type of soft actuator that operates on voltage stimuli. Apart from soft robotics, these actuators can serve many novel applications, for example, tunable optical gratings, lenses, diffusers, smart windows and so on. This article presents our current work on tunable smart windows which can regulate the light transmittance and the sound absorption. This smart window can promote daylighting while maintaining privacy by electrically switching between transparent and opaque. As a tunable optical surface scatters, it turns transparent with smooth surfaces like a flat glass; but it turns ‘opaque’ (translucent) with the micro-rough surface. The surface roughness is varied employing surface micro-wrinkling or unfolding using dielectric elastomer actuation. Moreover, this smart window is equipped with another layer of transparent micro-perforated dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA), which acts like Helmholtz resonators serving as a tunable and broader sound absorber. It can electrically tune its absorption spectrum to match the noise frequency for maximum acoustic absorption. The membrane tension and perforation size are tuned using DEA activation to tune its acoustic resonant frequency. Such a novel smart window can be made as cheap as glass due to its simple all-solid-state construction. In future, they might be used in smart green buildings and could potentially enhance urban livability.
- Dielectric elastomer actuators
- Smart acoustic absorbers
- Smart windows
- Transparent thin films