Ionomeric polymer transducers have received considerable attention in the past several years. These actuators, sometimes referred to as artificial muscles, have the ability to generate large bending strain and moderate stress at low applied voltages. Typically, ionic polymer actuators are composed of Nafion-117 membranes with platinum electrodes and are saturated with water diluents. Recently the authors have developed a novel fabrication technique named the Direct Assembly Process (DAP), which allowed good control on electrode morphology and composition. The DAP consists of spraying two high surface area metal-ionomer electrodes on a Nafion membrane. A single- walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) and ruthenium dioxide (RuO2) hybrid electrode was sprayed on a Formamide hydrated Nafion-117 membrane using the DAP method. This transducer was shown to generate 9.4% peak-peak strain under the application of ±2V at a strain rate of 1%/sec. Furthermore using the DAP one is capable of incorporating several types of diluents in ionomeric polymer transducers. Transducers with ionic liquid diluents are demonstrated to operate in air for long periods of time.
In this work we will present a reliability study of transducers fabricated using the DAP. Each transducer is tested under a frequency range of 0.2Hz to 1Hz, and a potential of ±1V to ±3V. Water hydrated transducers dehydrates and stop moving within 5 minutes while operating in air under ±2V. Transducers with Formamide diluents operate for 20,000 cycles under ±1.5V and 0.5Hz (around 11hrs), while they degrade in less than 3000 cycles under ±2V and 0.5Hz. Ionic liquid based transducers are demonstrated to operate in air for over 400,000 with little loss in performance, and over 1 million cycle with a loss of only 43%. Actuators with several electrode compositions are fabricated and a correlation between the reliability of ionic liquid-ionic polymer transducers and maximum strain will be presented. This correlation will be used to assess the adhesion between the high surface area electrodes and the Nafion membrane. SEM images of tested transducers will be presented.