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Comparative experimental investigation on the actuation mechanisms of ionic polymer–metal composites with different backbones and water contents

Comparative experimental investigation on the actuation mechanisms of ionic polymer–metal composites with different backbones and water contents


Abstract


Water-based ionic polymer–metal composites (IPMCs) exhibit complex deformation properties, especially when the water content changes. To explore the general actuation mechanisms, both Nafion and Flemion membranes are used as the polymer backbones. IPMC deformation includes three stages: fast anode deformation, relaxation deformation, and slow anode deformation, which is mainly dependent on the water content and the backbone. When the water content decreases from 21 to 14 wt. %, Nafion–IPMC exhibits a large negative relaxation deformation, zero deformation, a positive relaxation deformation, and a positive steady deformation without relaxation in sequence. Despite the slow anode deformation, Flemion–IPMC also shows a slight relaxation deformation, which disappears when the water content is less than 13 wt. %. The different water states are investigated at different water contents using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The free water, which decreases rapidly at the beginning through evaporation, is proven to be critical for relaxation deformation. For the backbone, indirect evidence from the steady current response is correlated with the slow anode deformation of Flemion-IPMC. The latter is explained by the secondary dissociation of the weak acid group –COOH. Finally, we thoroughly explain not only the three deformations by swelling but also their evolvement with decreasing water content. A fitting model is also presented based on a multi-diffusion equation to reveal the deformation processes more clearly, the results from which are in good agreement with the experimental results.

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