Electroactive polymers are one of the most promising technologies. Compared to inorganic materials the versatile polymers have various attractive properties, such as being lightweight, inexpensive and easy to manufacture.Tremendous amount of research and development has led to Electroactive Polymers (EAP) that can also change size or shape when stimulated by the right external electrical activation mechanism, meaning they can convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. Especially in the actuators segment vast R&D activity can be seen for specialized applications such as medical devices and biomimetic-robotics.
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Here the features of electroactive polymers are used to enable movement and generate force as well as electrically control surface properties.Haptics for consumer portable touch screen devices and peripherals is going to be the next big application and potentially the first large-scale implementation of EAP actuators in general with an expected penetration of 60% for haptic feedback in mobile phones for 2018.Today, EAPs are available that produce large strains and show great potential for applications. In comparision to only small response in the early development years electroactive polymers show significant deformation in the range of two to three orders of magnitude.Until now, despite several decades of R&D and first applications, the EAP field is far from mature and several subjects, such as perfomance and long-term stability, still need further development to tailor the properties of these polymers to the requirements of each application.The large-scale penetration of the touchscreen market will finally take the technology to the next level.
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IDTechEx forcasts a penetration of the haptics for consumer electronics touch display market exceeding 60% by 2018. This success will account for over 40% of the expected total revenue in 5 years.Other applications with great potential in +5 years from now include energy harvesting from see waves, medical applications, both invasive and non-invasive, large-area sensors, speakers etc. Especially for energy harvesting and the medical sector the technology needs to prove its suitability and improve efficiency as well as long-term stability before it can finally become commercial.ive year forecasts 2013-2018
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