Dielectric elastomers have shown great promise as actuator materials. Their advantages in converting mechanical to electrical energy in a generator mode are less well known. If a low voltage charge is placed on a stretched elastomer prior to contraction, the contraction works against the electrostatic field pressure and raises the voltage of the charge, thus generating electrical energy. This paper discusses the fundamentals of dielectric elastomer generators, experimental verification of the phenomenon, practical issues, and potential applications. Acrylic elastomers have demonstrated an estimated 0.4 J/g specific energy density, greater than that of piezoelectric materials. Much higher energy densities, over 1 J/g, are predicted. Conversion efficiency can also be high, theoretically up to 80-90%; the paper discusses the operating conditions and materials required for high efficiency. Practical considerations may limit the specific outputs and efficiencies of dielectric elastomeric generators, tradeoffs between electronics and generator material performance are discussed. Lastly, the paper describes work on potential applications such as an ongoing effort to develop a boot generator based on dielectric elastomers, as well as other applications such as conventional power generators, backpack generators, and wave power applications.© (2001) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.