Ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs) have intrinsic sensing and actuation capabilities. However, IPMCs require ionic hydration to operate. As the most commonly used solvent, water content contained in the polymer changes with the humidity level of the ambient environment, which affects the sensing behavior of an IPMC in air. Motivated by the need to ensure consistent sensing performance of IPMCs under different ambient environments, in this paper we propose thick (up to 10 micrometers) parylene C coating for IPMC sensors, develop effective coating processes, and evaluate the stability of the encapsulated sensors in air. During the process of parylene coating, water molecules would evaporate inside the deposition chamber, resulting in the encapsulated IPMCs’ losing sensing capability. To address this challenge and control the hydration level of an encapsulated IPMC, the proposed fabrication process comprises major steps of parylene deposition, water absorption, and SU-8 seal. The influence of hydration level controlled by the water absorption step is studied to improve the sensitivity of the IPMC sensor. The water impermeability of the proposed encapsulation technique is tested in different media. Experiments have also been conducted to evaluate the performance of the encapsulated IPMC sensor. The sensing consistency and the lifetime of an encapsulated sensor in air are studied in an environment with changing humidity, along with the comparison with an uncoated IPMC sensor. Experimental results show that the proposed thick parylene coating can effectively maintain the water content inside the IPMC and reduce the interference due to the ambient humidity change, which allows IPMC sensors to be used in many practical applications.

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