Characterization, Modeling, and Control of Ionic Polymer Transducers

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Virginia Tech


Ionic polymers are a recently discovered class of active materials that exhibit bidirectional electromechanical coupling. They are `soft' transducers that perform best when the mechanical deformation involves bending of the transducer. Ionic polymers are low voltage actuators -- they only require inputs on the order of 1V and cannot tolerate voltages above approximately 10V. The mechanisms responsible for the electromechanical coupling are not yet fully understood, and reports of the capabilities and limitations of ionic polymer transducers vary widely. In addition, suitable engineering models have not been developed.

This document presents a dynamic model for ionic polymer transducers that is based on a pair of symmetric, linearly coupled equations with frequency dependent coefficients. The model is presented in the form of an equivalent circuit, employing an ideal transformer with a frequency dependent turns ratio to represent the electromechanical coupling. The circuit elements have clear physical interpretations, and expressions relating them to transducer dimensions and material properties are derived herein.

The material parameters required for the model: modulus, density, electrical properties, and electromechanical coupling term are determined experimentally. The model is then validated by comparing simulated and experimental responses, and the agreement is good. Further validation is presented in the form of extensive experiments that confirm the predicted changes in transducer performance as transducer dimensions are varied. In addition, reciprocity between mechanical and electrical domains is demonstrated. This reciprocity is predicted by the model, and is a direct result of the symmetry in the equations on which the model is based.

The capabilities of ionic polymer sensors and actuators, when used in the cantilevered bender configuration, are discussed and compared to piezoceramic and piezo polymer cantilevered benders. The energy density of all three actuators are within an order of magnitude of one another, with peak values of approximately 10J/m^3 and 4mJ/kg for ionic polymer actuators actuated with a 1.2V signal. Ionic polymer sensors compare favorably to piezoelectric sensors. Their charge sensitivity is approximately 320E-6C/m for a 0.2 x 5 x 17mm cantilevered bender, two orders of magnitude greater than a piezo polymer sensor with identical dimensions.

This work is concluded with a demonstration of feedback control of a device powered by ionic polymer actuators. An ionic polymer sensor was used to provide the displacement feedback signal. This experiment is the first demonstration of feedback control using an ionic polymer sensor. Compensator design was performed using the model developed in the first chapter of this document, and experiments confirmed that implementation of the control scheme improved, in a narrow frequency range, the system's ability to track sinusoidal inputs.



Modeling, ionic polymer transducer, IPMC