An ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) actuator composed of a thin perfluorinated ionomer membrane with electrodes plated on both surfaces undergoes a large bending motion when a low electric field is applied across its thickness. Such actuators are soft, lightweight, and able to operate in solutions and thus show promise with regard to a wide range of applications, including MEMS sensors, artificial muscles, biomimetic systems, and medical devices. However, the variations induced by changing the type of anion on the device deformation properties are not well understood; therefore, the present study investigated the effects of different anions on the ion exchange process and the deformation behavior of IPMC actuators with palladium electrodes. Ion exchange was carried out in solutions incorporating various anions and the actuator tip displacement in deionized water was subsequently measured while applying a step voltage. In the step voltage response measurements, larger anions such as nitrate or sulfate led to a more pronounced tip displacement compared to that obtained with smaller anions such as hydroxide or chloride. In AC impedance measurements, larger anions generated greater ion conductivity and a larger double-layer capacitance at the cathode. Based on these mechanical and electrochemical measurements, it is concluded that the presence of larger anions in the ion exchange solution induces a greater degree of double-layer capacitance at the cathode and results in enhanced tip deformation of the IPMC actuators.
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