Low power consumption and activation voltage combined with high flexibility and minimal weight make Ionic Polymer Metal Composites (IPMCs) well-suited for miniaturized underwater propulsion systems. In this series of papers, we comprehensively discuss the flow field induced by an IPMC strip vibrating in a quiescent aqueous environment by performing complementary physical experiments and numerical simulations. The experimental results are presented in this paper. Planar particle image velocimetry is used to measure the time-averaged flow field of a vibrating IPMC. The momentum transferred to the fluid is computed to estimate the mean thrust generated by the vibrating actuator. We find that the mean thrust increases with the Reynolds number, defined by the maximum tip speed and IPMC length, and is only marginally affected by the relative vibration amplitude. Detailed understanding of the flow environment induced by a vibrating IPMC can guide the optimization of IPMC-based propulsion systems for bio-mimetic robotic swimmers.

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