Electroactive polymers (EAPs) that bend, swell, ripple (first generation materials), and now contract with
low electric input (new development) have been produced. The mechanism of contraction is not well understood. Radionuclide-labeled experiments, molecular modeling, electrolyte experiments, pH experiments, and an ionic concentration experiment were used to determine the chain of events that occur during contraction and, reciprocally, expansion when the polarity is reversed, in these ionic EAPs. Plasma treatment of the electrodes, along with other strategies, allows for the embedded electrodes and the EAP
material of the actuator to work and move as a unit, with no detachment, by significantly improving the
metal-polymer interface, analogous to nerves and tendons moving with muscles during movement. Challenges involved with prototyping actuation using contractile EAPs are also discussed.