A polymer-based nanofiber composite actuator designed for linear actuation was fabricated by electrospinning, actuated by electrolysis, and characterized by electrical and mechanical testing to address performance limitations and understand the activation processing effects on actuation performance. Currently, Electroactive polymers (EAPs) have provided uses in sensory and actuation technology, but have either low force output or expand rather than contract, falling short in capturing the natural motion and function of muscle desperately needed to provide breakthroughs in the bio-medical and robotic fields. Previous research has shown activated Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) fibers having biomimetic functionalities similar to the sarcomere contraction responsible for muscle function. Activated PAN is also known to contract and expand by electrolysis when in close vicinity to the anode and cathode, respectively. PAN nanofibers especially show faster response to changes in environmental pH and improved mechanical properties over larger diameter fibers. Conductive additives were introduced to the electrospinning solution and activated in an attempt to create composite PAN nanofiber gel actuators with improved conductivity and eliminate the need of stiff electrodes. Tensile testing was conducted to examine changes in mechanical properties between annealing and hydrolysis processing. Introducing conductive additives did not show a significant increase in conductivity and created unusable samples, requiring alternative electrode materials. Electrochemical contraction rates up to 25%/ min were achieved. Strains of 58.8%, ultimate stresses up to 77.1 MPa, and moduli of 0.21 MPa were achieved with pure PAN nanofiber mats, surpassing mechanical properties of natural muscles. Improvements to contraction rates and young's moduli are necessary to capture the function and performance of skeletal muscles properly.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Nanofibers--Electric properties; Nanofibers--Mechanical properties; Electrospinning; Actuators
Department, Program, or Center
Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (CAST)
Gonzalez, Mark, "An Investigation of electrochemomechanical actuation of conductive polyacrylonitrile (PAN) nanofiber composites" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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