DELFA Systems GmbH, Im Altseiterstal 7, 66538 Neunkirchen

What are Dielectric Elastomers?

Dielectric elastomers, also known as DE, belong to smart materials and can convert electrical energy into mechanical energy and vice versa. In addition to the two basic applications as sensors and drive, also called an actuator, the properties can be combined in an intelligent drive with inherent sensor properties.

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If an external force deforms DEs, their electrical properties change. As a result, the strength of the impact can be measured, and the system can be used as a pressure, force, or displacement sensor. By connecting them with our intelligent sensor electronics, the recorded data can be further processed and evaluated, generating additional information.


When an electrical voltage is applied, the DEs deform because the electrically conductive layers attract each other. This conversion of electrical to mechanical energy can be made technically usable by integrating the core element into our system. The electronics integrated into the system solution convert a corresponding analogue signal, eg from 0 to 10 V, into the voltage required internally. The drive can thus be used either as a digital drive (ON/OFF) or as a proportional drive without additional effort.

Intelligent drives‚Äč

An intelligent drive can be built with our technology by coupling the two basic functions described. Applying an electrical voltage to the drive causes a movement and thus deformation of the DE element. This deformation changes the electrical behavior in sensor operation, which serves as position feedback. With these inherent sensor properties of the material, a position-controlled drive can be set up without external sensors. The coupling to an intelligent drive occurs within the associated electronics, which contain the power supply for the drive functionality and the intelligence for sensors, evaluation, and communication.


Dielectric elastomers (DE) belong to the superordinate group of electroactive polymers. The basic building block is a wafer-thin elastomer film (dielectric), which is coated on both sides with an electrically conductive material. On the one hand, this capacitor-like structure allows flexible measurement of the deformation acting on the foil via a change in capacitance. On the other hand, by applying an electrical voltage, the so-called Maxwell pressure can be used to effectively generate movement. The combination of these two effects enables the step towards an intelligent and self-regulating drive system using self-sensing.

Sensors from DELFA Systems essentially consist of a thin, coated silicone film that can be flexibly shaped into various shapes or cling to surfaces. They can then measure pressure, strain, deformation and much more on site. You can find more about possible areas of application under Areas of application .

The spectrum of applications ranges from haptic feedback to intelligent surfaces and intelligent drives for valves, for example. Due to the combination of sensory and actuator properties, the DE technology is ideal for I4.0 and IoT applications. In addition, existing pneumatic or electromagnetic drives can also be advantageously replaced. Here, the disadvantages of conventional linear drives such as high energy consumption, high heat generation or additional sensors required for position-controlled drives are eliminated.

The generation of movement with the drives manufactured by DELFA Systems is always based on a deformation of the elastomer film and a resulting change in capacitance. This change in capacitance is proportional to the movement and thus allows continuous position measurement without additional sensors. This effect of the drive is referred to as self-sensing, since the drive can monitor itself.

No. For the Dielectric Elastomers (DE) manufactured by DELFA Systems, we mainly use inexpensive materials such as silicone (as an elastomer) and carbon black (for the conductive layer). In addition, in our patented manufacturing process, we only combine processes that have already proven themselves in mass production in other areas. Furthermore, we have enough flexibility in the electronics area, which enables us to adapt our systems to your installation situation, which minimizes your integration effort.

The Dielectric Elastomers (DE) offered by DELFA Systems is a capacitive drive technology that requires high voltages but only low currents in the microampere range. As a result, the required power is typically in the milliwatt range. The capacitive behavior also enables positions to be held with almost no current. This leads to very low power consumption, especially in continuous operation, and thus to negligible heating of the components.

Although high voltages are required to operate the drive systems manufactured by DELFA Systems, the currents that flow are in the microampere range. However, in order to allow easy and safe integration of our drives, they have integrated power electronics that get by with the usual supply voltages of 12 to 48 volts. This means that electromagnetic drives in existing systems can be replaced in the simplest way, without having to make any changes to the control peripherals.

The standard version of our sensor electronics contains a microcontroller, which makes the sensor data available. In combination with the flexibly adaptable peripherals, the interface and the communication can be adapted from analog to digital for specific applications.

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