Actuation tests

Testing the actuation with high voltage electricity and material properties of the membranes at the same time. Membranes appear to be very sensitive to voltage above 4kV. They tend to damage quite easily. Actuation usually starts around 1.3 / 1.5 kV. Discharging capacitor and converter is done manually, via bleeder resistors board. Capacitor should store electric charge after it is switched off for certain time. After that moment it should discharge gradually and the time of discharge should be influenced by outer level of humidity and the conductivity of the capacitor itself. This could be an interesting moment in the behavior of an array of capacitors being switched on and off.

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test object
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Polymer actuation test 1.0

Testing the actuation of the polymer film. Materials and electronics: VHB polymer film, conductive graphite powder, acrylic glass, high voltage converter, variable power supply, cables.

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Electroactive polymer membrane test

Testing the elasticity of VHB polymer film membranes attached to the planar surface. This method could be applied to the system of polymer actuators inside the final object prototype.

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Fire ant simulation


By applying the attraction-repulsion code from the Nature of Code publication by Daniel Shiffman, I try to simulate the possible behavior of the fire ant colony when exposed to the electric fields. Six attractors represent six capacitors forming the electric field. When voltage is applied, electric field of each capacitor starts to attract the ants. Different voltage loads applied to the capacitors cause the swarm of ants instinctively choose the strongest source at the time. When capacitors are off the ants dissipate rapidly.

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Fire ants and electric fields

red fire ant00
Ant image: Alexander Wild
There is an interesting phenomenon in the nature. Certain species of ants are attracted to the electric fields created by the high voltage devices. They tend to build nests close to the high voltage switch boxes, invade the electrical equipment, short out electronic gadgets, cut through the metal wires. No one really knows why. Research studies have been done on this phenomenon. Some claim this happens because particular species of ants are capable of detecting electromagnetic fields and may even use the Earth’s magnetic field as a directional cue as they search for food and nest locations. Their attraction to the man-made electrical devices may be an accidental evolutionary byproduct of this natural ability.
Their behavior is still incomprehensible to us. We perceive them as a threat which would invade our homes, build the nests in our electrical devices and cause a damage. My idea is quite the opposite. What if these ants were the users to design for? What kind of habitats whey would like to inhabit? Would I be able to design an environment in which they would enjoy their attraction to the electrical fields without causing any damage and harming one another? I think of an object which would contain this micro environment, providing food, nest and also an object which could create the electrical field in which they could interact. An object which could also form a sensory communication with the ant colony, could react to they presence and based on that it could provide the amount of electricity. Read More »

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