Archive | General

Peta-pico-Voltron in action


Here are a few examples of systems using Peta-pico-Voltron Power supplies

Printed Soft Machines

An inkjet printed slug drive

A multichannel HVPS was used to drive inkjet-printed soft machines (a peristaltic pump and slug drive). From Schlatter, S. et al. “Inkjet Printing of Complex Soft Machines with Densely Integrated Electrostatic Actuators“, Adv. Intell. Syst., 2: 2000136, 2020.


Stretching cells

Stretching cells with dielectric elastomer actuators

A single-channel Peta-pico-voltron power supply has been used to control a dielectric elastomer actuator to stretch lymphatic endothelial cells for 24 hours at 0.1 Hz. From Poulin, A., et al. “Dielectric elastomer actuator for mechanical loading of 2D cell cultures.Lab on a chip 16.19 (2016): 3788.

Measuring the degradation of compliant electrodes

NERD setup to measure the degradation of electrodes for DEAs (click to enlarge)

A Peta-pico-Voltron high voltage power supply was used in an automated setup for the measurement of the degradation of electrodes for Dielectric Elastomer Actuators. The LabVIEW function library was used to integrate the HVPS with other instruments, such as a camera and a 4-wire resistance measurement setup. More info in Rosset, Samuel, et al. “Assessing the degradation of compliant electrodes for soft actuators.Review of Scientific Instruments 88.10 (2017): 105002.

Scholar articles

Below is a list of articles that make use of a Peta-pico-Voltron power supply

  1. Schlatter, S., et al. (2020), Inkjet Printing of Complex Soft Machines with Densely Integrated Electrostatic Actuators. Adv. Intell. Syst., 2: 2000136
  2. Albuquerque, Fabio Beco, and Herbert Shea. “Influence of humidity, temperature and prestretch on the dielectric breakdown strength of silicone elastomer membranes for DEAs.” Smart Materials and Structures 29.10 (2020): 105024.
  3. Hinchet, Ronan, and Herbert Shea. “High Force Density Textile Electrostatic Clutch.” Advanced Materials Technologies 5.4 (2020): 1900895.
  4. Pfeil, Sascha, et al. “A Worm-Like Biomimetic Crawling Robot Based on Cylindrical Dielectric Elastomer Actuators.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI 7 (2020): 9.
  5. Leroy, E., et al., Multimode Hydraulically Amplified Electrostatic Actuators for Wearable Haptics. Adv. Mater. 2020, 32, 2002564.
  6. Cacucciolo, Vito, et al. “Stretchable pumps for soft machines.Nature (2019): 572pages516–519.
  7. Mitchell, Shane K., et al. “An Easy‐to‐Implement Toolkit to Create Versatile and High‐Performance HASEL Actuators for Untethered Soft Robots.Advanced Science (2019): 1900178.
  8. Rosset, Samuel, et al. “Assessing the degradation of compliant electrodes for soft actuators.Review of Scientific Instruments 88.10 (2017): 105002.
  9. de Saint-Aubin, C. A., et al. “High-cycle electromechanical aging of dielectric elastomer actuators with carbon-based electrodes.Smart Materials and Structures 27.7 (2018): 074002.
  10. McCoul, David, et al. “Inkjet 3D printing of UV and thermal cure silicone elastomers for dielectric elastomer actuators.Smart Materials and Structures 26.12 (2017): 125022.
  11. Aksoy, Bekir, and Herbert Shea. “Dynamically reconfigurable DEAs incorporating shape memory polymer fibers.Proc. of SPIE Vol. 10966, p 109661Y, 2019.
  12. Sîrbu, Ion-Dan, et al. “Electrostatic actuator for tactile display based on hydraulically coupled dielectric fluids and soft structures.Proc. of SPIE Vol. 10966, p 109662D, 2019.
  13. Rosset, Samuel, et al. “Taming the viscoelastic creep of dielectric elastomer actuators.Proc. of SPIE, Vol. 10966, p 1096614, 2019.
  14. Hinchet, Ronan, et al. “DextrES: Wearable Haptic Feedback for Grasping in VR via a Thin Form-Factor Electrostatic Brake.The 31st Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. ACM, 2018.


General compatibility table

SHVPS firmwareMHVPS firmwareGUIPCBVersion summary
91.52.9v4b2, v4b3, v6b1Improved python interface and python library of functions
81.42.8v4b2, v4b3, v6b1python interface. Standalone version with battery.
71.32.7, 2.7.1v4b2, v4b3, v6b1Initial release of the PetapicoVoltron project

1 Board


The PCB and BOM have been modified so that all components (except for the 2 high voltage optocouplers) can be sourced from a single supplier (Digikey). This should make it much easier to collect all of the components required to assemble the power supply.


Modification for multi-channel configuration. There is absolutely no difference between batch 3 and batch 2 regarding assembly instructions or use in single channel configuration. When used in multichannel configuration v4b3 enables synchronised switching between channels up to 1kHz. With batch 2, the maximal frequency is around 100Hz. v4b3 is the most recent version and is the recommended version.

  • External Frequency control now also connected to pin D7, which has hardware interrupt capabilities


Initial release of the Peta-pico-Voltron project as an open source project

2 Graphic user interface


  • Python: A complete library of function, to use the SHVPS in custom-made codes written in Python. The user-defined waveform functionality has been added to the Python GUI. The GUI have been improved with keyboard shortcuts to make it easier to use without a touch screen.
  • LabVIEW: The calibration/measurement routines now support the Analog Discovery 2.


  • Python: New pyhton user interface
  • LabVIEW: Frequency can be set with a slider.


Bug correction

  • The trigger/stroboscopic window was not included in the application
  • The DAQ voltage reading was not included in the application


Initial release of the Peta-pico-Voltron project as an open source project

3 Single channel HVPS firmware

Version 9

  • Set commands now include data validation
  • Commands to set the PID gains now behave similar to other set commands

Version 8

  • New command SPowJack to indicate if power comes from the DC jack
  • New command Conf for an initial configuration of the board with default values

Version 7

Initial release of the Peta-pico-Voltron project as an open source project

4 Multi channel HVPS firmware

Version 1.5

Compatibility with LabVIEW GUI version 2.9

Version 1.4

Compatibility with LabVIEW GUI version 2.8

Version 1.3

Initial release of the Peta-pico-Voltron project as an open source project

High Voltage Power Supplies

We are a team of researchers conducting research around Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs). These are soft and stretchy electrostatic actuators that require a high driving voltage, but a very low current. We were frustrated by the lack of commercial affordable compact power supplies that met our needs for testing DEAs: capacity to generate a square signal up to 1 kHz, possibility to be controlled by a computer with a simple set of instructions, and with a low footprint, so that it can be easily moved around.

We ended up developing our own custom solution, and because of the interest of other researchers for an affordable power supply packed with functionality that can be easily assembled in the lab, we have decided to release the whole project as an open source project. You will find all the information required to build, configure, calibrate, and use a Peta-pico-Voltron power supply on this website.

Single Channel Power Supply

Single Channel HVPS

Stand-alone configuration

Multi Channel Power Supply

Peta-pico-Voltron in action: See applications of the Peta-pico-Voltron High Voltage Power supply and link to scholarly articles that use the HVPS


Check the latest modifications to the Peta-pico-Voltron project!

Single Channel High Voltage Power Supply


The Single Channel High Voltage Power Supply (SHVPS) consists of a programmable voltage source capable of producing a user-controllable HV DC voltage. A fast switch allows to quickly turn the voltage on and off to create a square voltage of a frequency up to 1 kHz.

Single Channel HVPS

Learn How to assemble a SHVPS

Learn How to use a SHVPS

LabView user interface

Python user interface

The SHVPS philosophy

The HVPS has been developed primarily to drive and control Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs), which are electrostatic soft transducers that require a high driving voltage (up to 5 kV depending on thickness) at low current (typically <100 uA). Most commercial high voltage power supplies are ill-suited for DEAs: they are bulky, heavy, not to mention utterly expensive.

With Peta-pico-Voltron, we wanted to develop a do-it-yourself HVPS packing a lot of functionalities into a small footprint. We have dedicated a lot of effort to design an elegant hardware solution in conjunction with a firmware that contains a lot of functionalities. In addition, a comprehensive graphic user interface, and library of function make Peta-pico-Voltron very easy to use and to integrate with other instruments.

Main features


hvps concept

The SHVPS consists of a programmable high voltage source coupled to a fast switch. The programmable source generates a precise voltage, and the fast switch allows to connect ground or the source voltage to the output connection, thus making it possible to generate either continuous or square waveforms.

Programmable voltage source

  • Voltage rating: HVPS can be manufactured with different maximal voltages. We have built and tested units with the following ratings: 5kV, 3kV, 2kV, 1.2kV and 500V. The SHVPS uses an EMCO A-Series DC/DC converter, and any model can be used to build a HVPS.
  • Voltage set point resolution: 0.1% of full scale.
  • Voltage control modes: Internal (open loop or regulated), or external analog voltage.

Fast switch

  • 3 different switching modes can be used: DC voltage, square signal, or 0V (off), as shown on the 2 figures below:
  • Frequency range: 0.001 Hz to >1kHz.
  • Switching slope for 5kV HVPS and full-scale switching: ~15V/us
  • Source of switching signal: Internal timer, manual push-button, or external 5V TTL signal.


  • User-friendly GUI providing access to all functions
    • Ability to control several SHVPS in parallel.
    • Safety feature to limit the output voltage below a user-defined level.
    • Memory function to store parameters in the unit.


  • LabVIEW library with all the necessary functions required to program the SHVPS and to synchronize it with other instruments.


  • 5kV SHVPS
  • (Datasheets for other model will follow when available)



For questions, comments, bug reports, feature requests, submission of modified files, or just to say ‘hi’:

Project Peta-pico-Voltron

Project Peta-pico-Voltron is an open-source High Voltage Power Supply (HVPS) for low-current application.

And why this name? Well Peta*pico: 1E15*1E-12… Look it’s a kilo Volt!

This HVPS was developed at the Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory (LMTS) from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne by Samuel Schlatter and Samuel Rosset, under the direction of Prof. Herbert Shea.

The HVPS has been developed primarily to drive and control Dielectric Elastomer Actuators, which are electrostatic soft transducers that require a high driving voltage at low current. Our aim was to develop a cheap and compact power supply packing a lot of functionalities on a small footprint. We have received inquiries from several research groups to sell them HVPS. However, we don’t have the manpower or infrastructure to assemble and sell devices. Therefore we have decided to release all of the necessary information (PCB layout, software, assembly instructions and user manuals) in the form of an open project in the hope it will be useful to the community. Share and enjoy!

Project Peta-pico-Voltron started in June 2015, with a release to the public as an open-source project in March 2017 during the EAP in-action live demo session at the Electroactive Polymers Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) conference in Portland, Oregon.



Samuel Rosset (ABI/EPFL): Samuel is leading and coordinating the project. He is working on the software side, namely on the firmware for the microcontroller, as well as the graphic user interface. He has developed and programmed the calibreation routines, and taken care of documenting the project on this website. He has recently moved to the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, but is still working on the Peta-pico-voltron project.

Samuel Schlatter (EPFL): Sam is working on the hardware side of the project and has designed the HVPS circuit and PCB. He has established and documented the assembly and testing procedures of the board and has been supervising the engineers who have assembled and tested the first units.

Herbert Shea (EPFL): As head of the LMTS at EPFL, Herbert has been a key support for this project. First by recognising the need to develop such a power supply, due to the lack of commercial products meeting our requirements. But most importantly by allocating financial resources and manpower to turn this idea into a functional product.

Patrin Illenberger (ABI): Patrin has developed the battery charging circuit used for the standalone configuration which comnines the HVPS, a Raspberry Pi, a touch screen and a battery into a single independent package.

Additional help: We wish to thank Mr. Pierre Zenklusen, for his precious help with the assembly and testing of the first generation of HVPS, as well as Mr. Aymeric Schafflützel for the design and assembly of the enclosures.

The project peta-pico-voltron and the hosting of this website have been supported by Prof. Herbert Shea’s Soft Transducers Laboratory at EPFL, Switzerland. The development of the battery management PCB has been supported by Prof. Iain Anderson, the Biomimetics Lab, and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.


The text and images on this website are published under a Creative Common Attribution Share-alike (CC-BY-SA) license. You are free to copy, share and adapt the contents. You must give appropriate credit to project Peta-pico-Voltron, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the CC-BY-SA license.


The codes and programs are distributed under a GNU General Public License (GNU GPL v3).


The information on this website, the codes, and software are distributed in the hope that they will be useful, but without any waranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

High Voltage

The High Voltage Power Supply (HVPS) is capable of producing high voltages. Although the current is limited to a safe value, touching the output can lead to shocks and/or damage to sensitive equipment. The authors decline all liability in the event of improper use, incident linked to the use of the HVPS or damage to equipment.