Andres Punning, University of Tartu
Alvo Aabloo, University of Tartu
Jonathan Rossiter, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Mart Min, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
Electromechanically active materials are polymer-based composites exhibiting mechanical deformation under electrical stimulus, i.e. they can be implemented as soft actuators in variety of devices. In comparison to conventional electromechanical actuators, their key characteristics include easy customisation, noiseless operation, straightforward mechanical design, sophisticated motion patterns, etc. Ionic EAPs (electromechanically active polymers) are one of two primary classes of electroactive materials, where actuation is caused mostly by the displacement of ions inside polymer matrix. Mechanical response of ionic EAPs is, in addition to voltage and frequency, dependent on environmental variables such as humidity and temperature. Therefore a major challenge lies in achieving controlled actuation of these materials. Due to their size and added complexity, external feedback devices inhibit the application of micro-scale actuators. Hence, self-sensing EAP actuators capable for simultaneous actuation and sensing are desired. In this thesis, sensing based on deformation-dependent electrochemical impedance is demonstrated and modelled for two types of trilayer ionic EAPs ionic polymer-metal composite and carbon-polymer composite. Separating sensing signal from the input signal of the actuator is achieved by patterning the electrode layers of an IEAP material in a way that different but mechanically coupled sections for actuation and sensing are created. A variety of concepts for pattering the electrode layers (machining, laser ablation, masking, etc.) are implemented and their applicability is discussed.