A polyurethane hydrogel based touch sensor with high transparency and conformability is demonstrated. Polyurethane hydrogels swollen with various electrolytes were compressed at a pressure of 30 kPa, simulating a fingertap on a conventional touch screen device. Unlike ionic polymer metal composite and conducting polymer trilayer sensors, where electrodes render the sensors opaque and relatively rigid, the electrodes used in this work are metal wires or strips, separated from each other by regions of transparent film, enabling transparency and compliance. The voltages and currents observed when the perturbation is above one electrode are on the order of 10-2 V and 10-7 A, relative to a second electrode that is approximately 1 cm away. The sign of voltage and current signals detected from perturbations made between electrodes is determined by relative proximity to each electrode, and the magnitude appears to decrease with increasing distance from the electrodes. These observations suggest that it may be possible to discriminate the location of touch based on signals transmitted to the edges of an ionically conductive film. A model to describe the inhomogeneous ionic distribution and predict the resultant voltage and current is presented to qualitatively explain the sensing, based on the Donnan potential.
Trilayer actuators enable large mechanical amplification, but at the expense of force. Thicker trilayers can generate more force, but displacement drops. Ideally of course a combination of high force and large displacement is desirable. In this work we explore the stacking of trilayers driven by conducting polymers in order to combine large force and reasonable deflection. Trilayer actuators operating in air are simulated using the finite element method. Force generated and the maximum beam deflection of individual and multiple stacked trilayers are studied in terms of the interface condition of the neighboring layers and the length of the auxiliary trilayer. The best performance is obtained when trilayers are able to slide with respect to each other so forces can add without impeding displacement. This case will require low friction and uniformity among the trilayers. Bonding of stacked trilayers along their entire length increases force, but dramatically reduces displacement. An alternative which leads to moderate displacements with increased force is the use of a long and a short trilayer that are bonded.
Polypyrrole-based actuators are of interest due to their biocompatibility, low operation voltage and relatively high strain and force. Modeling and simulation are very important to predict the behaviour of each actuator. To develop an accurate model, we need to know the electro-chemo-mechanical specifications of the Polypyrrole. In this paper, the non-linear time-variant model of Polypyrrole film is derived and proposed using a combination of an RC transmission line model and a state space representation. The model incorporates the potential dependent ionic conductivity. A function of ionic conductivity of Polypyrrole vs. local charge is proposed and implemented in the non-linear model. Matching of the measured and simulated electrical response suggests that ionic conductivity of Polypyrrole decreases significantly at negative potential vs. silver/silver chloride and leads to reduced current in the cyclic voltammetry (CV) tests. The next stage is to relate the distributed charging of the polymer to actuation via the strain to charge ratio. Further work is also needed to identify ionic and electronic conductivities as well as capacitance as a function of oxidation state so that a fully predictive model can be created.