With low driving voltage (<5V) and the ability to be operated in aqueous environments, ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) materials are quickly gaining attention for use in underwater applications. There are, however, drawbacks to IPMCs, including the “back relaxation” effect. Specifically, when subjected to a DC input (or an excessively slow dynamic input), the IPMC actuator will slowly relax back toward its original position. There is debate over the physical mechanism of back relaxation, although one prevalent theory describes an initial current, caused by the electrostatic forces of the charging electrodes, which drives water molecules across the ion-exchange membrane and deforms the IPMC. Once the electrodes are fully charged, however, the dominant element of the motion is the osmotic pressure, driving the water molecules back to equilibrium, thus causing back relaxation. A new method to mitigate back relaxation is proposed, taking advantage of controlled activation of patterned (sectored) electrodes on the IPMC. Whereas previous approaches to correct back relaxation rested on an increase of input voltage which can lead to electrolysis, subsequently damaging the material, this method involves only proper control of isolated electrodes to compensate for the back relaxation and does not require sensor feedback. An electromechanical model of the actuator is used to guide the design of these input signals, and the feasibility of using electrode patterning to mitigate back relaxation is demonstrated. Without reaching electrolysis, an IPMC is able to maintain its position for approximately 30 seconds. Compared to a simple step response, the rate of relaxation is reduced by 94% and the maximum error is reduced by 64%.

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