Ionic Polymer Metal Composites (IPMCs) are a class of Electro-Active Polymers (EAPs) consisting of a base polymer (usually Nafion), sandwiched between thin films of electrodes and an electrolyte. Apart from fuel cell like proton exchange process in Nafion, these IPMCs can act both as an actuator and a sensor. Typically, IPMCs have been known for their applications in fuel cell technology and in artificial muscles for robots. However, more recently, sensing properties of IPMC have opened up possibilities of mechanical energy harvesting. In this paper, we consider a bi-layer stack of IPMC membranes where fluid flow induced cyclic oscillation allows collection of electronic charge across a pair of functionalized electrode on the surface of IPMC layers/stacks. IPMCs work well in hydrated environment; more specifically, in presence of an electrolyte, and therefore, have great potential in underwater applications like hydrodynamic energy harvesting. Hydrodynamic forces produce bending deformation, which can induce transport of cations via polymer chains of the base polymer of Nafion or PTFE. In our experimental set-up, the deformation is induced into the array of IPMC membranes immersed in electrolyte by water waves caused by a plunger connected to a stepper motor. The frequency and amplitude of the water waves is controlled by the stepper motor through a micro-controller. The generated electric power is measured across a resistive load. Few orders of magnitude increase in the harvested power density is observed. Analytical modeling approach used for power and efficiency calculations are discussed. The observed electro-mechanical performance promises a host of underwater energy harvesting applications.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.