Based on a previous paper presented at EAPAD Conference on 2005 and supported by the European Community by the research project ISAMCO (Ionic polymer metal composite as Sensors and Actuators for Motion COntrol, 2004-2006) inside the sixth Framework Program, the proposed paper goes on describing the results about the characterization of IPMC materials as motion actuators, obtained by using an improved infrared-based system designed, realized and characterised to this aim. The system was required to detect both the IPMC absorbed current and its consequent deflection, under the effect of the applied voltage. The deflection is detected by the IR system, that uses a differential configuration in order to reduce non-linearity, peculiar to IR devices. The measurement system is used to identify and then validate a model, proposed to describe the IPMC actuator behaviour in a wide range of operating conditions. The model was obtained by adopting a grey box approach. By acquiring the signals involved: the applied voltage, the absorbed current and the IPMC displacement, for different inputs such as pulses, sinusoidal waves (with varying frequency and amplitude) and noise, and by post-processing these signals, all the parameters relative to the IPMC actuator were identified and several tests were performed in order to compare the behaviour of the actuator as predicted by the model with the experimental one. The obtained results show a very good accordance between the simulated and the real actuator response, hence represent a good validation of the proposed model.
Ionic Polymer Metal Composites or IPMCs are emerging materials belonging to EAP class. They are of increasing interest in innovative applications due to several advantages respect to competing technologies (SMA, piezoelectric, etc.), such as the possibility to be used both as moving actuators and sensors, their lightness and the low actuation voltage. On the other hand their behaviour is not fully known and it is still subjected to deep investigations. In this perspective the development of a complete model, able to fully describe the electromechanical properties of the IPMC materials, is the aim of many research groups. To that purpose this work focuses on designing and realising a system to determine the frequency domain behaviour of an IPMC strip as actuator in order to collect information useful to model it. Here the IPMC deformation, caused by applying a voltage input signal across its thickness, is detected by using an infrared transmitter-receiver couple. This methodology is largely diffused and it is based on the acquisition of the intensity of the emitted ray after being reflected by the moving target, moreover it constitutes a low cost solution. Also a transducer is used to acquire information about the current absorbed by the device under test. For the specific application a conditioning circuitry and the software for signal processing has been designed and realised. Preliminary results show that the proposed system allows to infer a number of interesting properties of IPMC based actuators.