Ionic Polymer-Metal Composites (IPMC) are highly functional actuators that find many uses in the field of soft robotics due to their low actuation voltage and ability to operate in aquatic environments. The actuation of an IPMC relies on the swelling of the negatively charged side when a potential is applied, due to the free-moving cations and water molecules migrating to that half. While this bending type actuation can be utilized to perform many tasks, it is ill suited for the primary propulsion mechanism in certain soft robotic applications. Here, a new conceptual design is presented which utilizes the bending of IPMC materials to achieve complex actuation motion in an attempt to generate a non-zero net thrust for propulsion of soft robots. The design capitalizes on advances in the manufacturing processes of electroactive polymer materials, which now allow for more complex shapes and thus new and unique modes of actuation. By utilizing the consistent bending deformation of IPMC actuators, in conjunction with carefully considered geometry, an IPMC driven body may serve as a primary mode of propulsion through a positive net thrust generation. This work consists of the initial feasibility study, concept testing, and optimization for such an actuator through computer modeling and simulation. COMSOL will be used for the finite element analysis to design the most efficient and optimized design for a positive net thrust generation. Such an IPMC design may find a great deal of applications, and the potential of future integration into other soft robotic systems is considered.
Zakai Olsen and Kwang Jin Kim, "IPMC-driven thrust generation: a new conceptual design (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 101630K (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 27, 2017; Published: 10 May 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2258475.5427096912001.
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