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High surface area electrodes in ionic polymer transducers: Numerical and experimental investigations of the electro-chemical behavior
Akle, Barbar J.
Akle, Etienne J.
Leo, Donald J.
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Ionomeric polymer transducer (IPT) is an electroactive polymer that has received considerable attention due to its ability to generate large bending strain (> 5%) and moderate stress at low applied voltages (+/-2 V). Ionic polymer transducers consist of an ionomer, usually Nafion, sandwiched between two electrically conductive electrodes. A novel fabrication technique denoted as the direct assembly process (DAP) enabled controlled electrode architecture in ionic polymer transducers. A DAP built transducer consists of two high surface area electrodes made of electrically conducting particles uniformly distributed in an ionomer matrix sandwiching an ionomer membrane. The purpose of this paper is to investigate and simulate the effect of these high surface area particles on the electro-chemical response of an IPT. Theoretical investigations as well as experimental verifications are performed. The model used consists of a convection-diffusion equation describing the chemical field as well as a Poisson equation describing the electrical field. The two-dimensional model incorporates highly conductive particles randomly distributed in the electrode area. Traditionally, these kinds of electrodes were simulated with boundary conditions representing flat electrodes with a large dielectric permittivity at the polymer boundary. This model enables the design of electrodes with complicated geometrical patterns. In the experimental section, several transducers are fabricated using the DAP process on Nafion 117 membranes. The architecture of the high surface area electrodes in these samples is varied. The concentration of the high surface area RuO2 particles is varied from 30 vol% up to 60 vol% at a fixed thickness of 30 mu m, while the overall thickness of the electrode is varied from 10 mu m up to 40 mu m at a fixed concentration of 45%. The flux and charge accumulation in the materials are measured experimentally and compared to the results of the numerical simulations. Trends of the experimental and numerical investigations are in agreement, while the computational capacity is limiting the ability to add sufficient amount of metal particle to the electrode in order to match the magnitudes. (C) 2011 American Institute of Physics. [ doi:10.1063/1.3556751]