20 July 1998 Low-mass muscle actuators using electroactive polymers (EAP)
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Abstract
NASA is seeking to reduce the mass, size, consumed power, and cost of the instrumentation used in its future missions. An important element of many instruments and devices is the actuation mechanism and electroactive polymers offer an effective alternative to current actuators. In this study, two families of electroactive polymer materials were investigated, including bending ionomers and longitudinal electrostatically driven elastomers. These materials were demonstrated to effectively actuate manipulation devices and their performance is being enhanced in this on-going study. The recent observations are reported in this paper, which also include cryovac tests at conditions that simulate Mars environment. Tests at T = -140°C and P ~ 1 Torr, which are below Mars conditions, showed that the bending actuator was still responding with a measurable actuation displacement. Analysis of the electrical characteristics of the ionomer showed that it is a current driven material rather than voltage driven. Measurements of transient currents in response to a voltage step shows a time constant on the order of few seconds with a response speed that is enhanced with the decrease in drive voltage. The ionomer main limitation is its requirement for being continuously moist. Tests showed that while the performance degrades as the material becomes dry, its AC impedance increases, reaching an order of magnitude higher than the wet ionomer. This response provides a gauging indication of the material wetness status. Methods of forming the equivalent of a skin to protect the moisture content of the ionomer are being sought and a limited success was observed using thick platinum electroding as well as when using polymeric coating.
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Yoseph Bar-Cohen, T. Xue, Mohsen Shahinpoor, Joycelyn S. Harrison, Joseph G. Smith, "Low-mass muscle actuators using electroactive polymers (EAP)", Proc. SPIE 3324, Smart Structures and Materials 1998: Smart Materials Technologies, (20 July 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.316866; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.316866
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