The field of electroactive polymers (EAPs) is rapidly growing. These materials are being scouted for use as linear actuators, specifically in the areas of artificial muscle design, and also for use as biomimetic sensors. IPMCs, or ionic polymer metal composites, are a form of EAP that are being proposed for application in both of these fields. IPMCs are composed of a solvated ionic EAP sandwiched between two metal electrodes. In the literature, there are a wealth of conceptual designs and data related to the use of IPMCs as actuators. However, sufficient data and characterization related to their use as sensors is grossly deficient. This research aims to rectify the gap between the theoretical concept of using these materials for sensing and actual proof of concept by quantifying voltage responses due to small force inputs in various electrolytes (LiCl, NiCl2, NiSO4, and De-Ionized water). Two different load profiles were implemented to evaluate the voltage response to a continuous input, to assess the feasibility of using IPMCs as a precision sensor, and to a cyclical input, to assess the feasibility of using IPMCs as a simpler binary sensor. Normal and reversed polarity voltage profiles were also collected to quantify the reversibility of the material response. Results from the study showed that the IPMCs showed a reversible response in all liquids tested. The results also showed that the response of the materials in LiCl was the least sensitive, but showed good repeatability, while the response in NiCl2 exhibited the greatest sensitivity, but the worst repeatability. The response in NiSO4 was slightly more sensitive than in LiCl and only slightly less repeatable, but the materials in NiSO4 demonstrated an almost completely reversible response. Interestingly, the response in DI water was only slightly less sensitive than in NiCl2 and results obtained using DI water demonstrated the feasibility of developing an IPMC sensor using DI water as the electrolyte. Overall, the data shows that regardless of the electrolyte of choice, IPMCs demonstrate a repeatable response to a force input and show promise for either precision or "binary" tactile sensors.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Conducting polymers--Testing; Actuators--Materials; Tactile sensors--Materials; Polymers--Electric properties
Department, Program, or Center
Center for Materials Science and Engineering
Mieney, Chris, "Ionic polymer metal composites as tactile sensors" (2012). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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