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Performance Improvement of IPMC (Ionic Polymer Metal Composites) for a Flapping Actuator

Soon-Gie Lee, Hoon-Cheol Park*, Surya D. Pandita, and Youngtai Yoo
International Journal of Control, Automation, and Systems, vol. 4, no. 6, pp.748-755, 2006

Abstract : In this paper, a trade-off design and fabrication of IPMC (Ionic Polymer Metal Composites) as an actuator for a flapping device have been described. Experiments for the internal solvent loss of IPMCs have been conducted for various combinations of cation and solvent in order to find out the best combination of cation and solvent for minimal solvent loss and higher actuation force. From the experiments, it was found that IPMCs with heavy water as their solvent could operate longer. Relations between length/thickness and tip force of IPMCs were also quantitatively identified for the actuator design from the tip force measurement of 200, 400, 640, and 800μm thick IPMCs. All IPMCs thicker than 200μm were processed by casting Nafion™ solution. The shorter and thicker IPMCs tended to generate higher actuation force but lower actuation displacement. To improve surface conductivity and to minimize solvent evaporation due to electrically heated electrodes, gold was sputtered on both surfaces of the cast IPMCs by the Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process. For amplification of a short IPMC’s small actuation displacement to a large flapping motion, a rack-and-pinion type hinge was used in the flapping device. An insect wing was attached to the IPMC flapping mechanism for its flapping test. In this test, the wing flapping device using the 800μm thick IPMC could create around 10°~85° flapping angles and 0.5~15Hz flapping frequencies by applying 3~4V.

Keyword : Artificial muscle, flapping device, Ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs), IPMCs actuator, Nafion™.

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