Ionic Electroactive Polymer Actuators with Tailored NanoStructure Morphology

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    The research objective of this grant is to elucidate the fundamental micro- and nano-scopic processes that are responsible for the observed electromechanical responses in ionic electroactive polymers (i-EAPs). Electroactive polymers, because of their many attractive properties and characteristics including high strain response, low density, fracture tolerance, and pliability, are suitable for a broad range of sensing and actuating applications. i-EAPs that can be operated under a few volts are particularly attractive because this allows direct integration with advanced microelectronics, which opens up an entirely new device paradigm for multifunctional large-scale integrations. However, i-EAPs suffer relatively low efficiency as well as low actuation speed. The porous electrodes in traditional i-EAPs have a random morphology that physically impedes ion transport, resulting in slow response times and reduced efficiency. The proposed study will exploit i-EAPs with uniquely controlled and tunable nanostructure morphology and investigate ionic liquids that can maximize the strain generated and actuation speed. Ion size, and its transport through similarly sized (and controllable) nanoscale channels, has the potential to uncover new physics limiting transport. By systematically tailoring the nanostructure morphology, and varying the ionic liquids, we intend to unravel fundamental processes controlling the electromechanical response in the i-EAP materials and devices.

    If successful, this interdisciplinary collaborative effort will expand the known i-EAP materials, allow the operation of i-EAP devices to much above the electrochemical window of the electrolytes, develop an understanding of ion transport and storage in nanocomposites with known nanostructure morphology, and provide structure-property relations for different ions in i-EAP materials. This collaborative program between Penn State and MIT will provide education and training of graduate students and undergraduate in a multi-disciplinary exchange context, ranging from nano-materials science and engineering, nanocomposites and MEMs fabrication techniques, advanced nano-materials characterizations, through to device-level integration. This program will pursue a proliferation of the broad-impact results from this program by disseminating video features depicting the broad energy applications of advanced materials and nanotechnology to high-schools and county libraries and other institutions and two graduate courses will be enhanced. The program will also actively disseminate knowledge through public media outlets as appropriate, such as institutional press releases and the Discovery & Science Channels.

    Effective start/end date9/1/118/31/15


    • National Science Foundation: $501,562.00


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