In certain applications, IPMC materials may offer advantages over
conventional mechanical, hydraulic, or pneumatic actuators, in that IPMCs lack moving parts and require only modest operating voltages for actuation. Investigations into the mechanism of IPMC actuation and sensing seek to foster development of actuators that generate greater displacement magnitudes and forces, and sensors that are more sensitive to imposed deformations. Developers seek to exploit these materials in a number of applications including medical, space, robotic, soft microelectronic machine (MEMS), and entertainment devices. This chapter addresses the known properties of IPMC materials, their manufacture, and the methods for their characterization. In addition, we provide a summary of models proposed to account for the mechanisms of IPMC actuation and sensing, experimental results to support or invalidate these models, and concluding with a hybrid model that integrates electrical, chemical, and mechanical forces to produce results in accord with experimental observations. Finally, we highlight a few applications that have been proposed for these materials.
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