Modeling actuation and sensing in ionic polymer metal composites by electrochemo-poromechanics

Alessandro Leronni and Lorenzo Bardella

Department of Civil, Environmental, Architectural Engineering and Mathematics, University of Brescia, Via Branze, 4325123, Brescia, Italy


Ionic polymer metal composites (IPMCs) consist of an electroactive polymeric membrane plated with metal electrodes. They hold promise as actuators and sensors for soft robotics and biomedical applications. Their capabilities ensue from the motion, within the membrane, of a fl uid phase consisting of ions dispersed in a solvent. Toward a thorough understanding of IPMC multiphysics, we propose a large deformation theory combining electrochemistry and poromechanics. Namely, we modify the theory recently developed by Porfiri's group by introducing the transport of the solvent, whose redistribution determines the volumetric deformation of the fl uid-saturated membrane, and we further account for the cross-diffusion of solvent and ions. In actuation, the imposed voltage drop across the electrodes triggers ion migration, such that the solvent is transported toward the cathode by electro-osmosis. This determines the initial bending toward the anode; then, back-relaxation occurs because of both the solvent counter-diffusion and the asymmetric redistribution of ions near the electrodes. In short-circuit sensing, the applied load triggers solvent motion, such that ions are mainly transported toward the cathode by convection with the solvent. This determines charge accumulation; then, ion counter-diffusion leads to a decrease of the charge stored at the electrodes. We demonstrate that these behaviors can be predicted by the proposed theory on the basis of relevant finiteelement benchmarks. Additionally, our analysis encompasses the assessment of the role of the membrane elastic moduli in the counter-diffusion of solvent and ions in IPMC actuation and sensing.

Author Keywords: Ionic polymer metal composite; sensors and actuators; porous material; chemo-mechanical processes; electromechanical processes