Ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs) have become an area of interest in the past decade for their unique properties as actuators. Conventional IPMCs require the use of rare earth metals for electrodes making the fabrication of these materials expensive, time consuming to produce, and not suitable for large scale manufacturing. Due to the low actuational forces, in the millinewton scale, characterization of IPMCs is costly and often requires expensive force sensors and data acquisition (DAQ) systems. This thesis explores the capabilities of a low cost, two dimensional millinewton force sensor fabricated out of nitinol #1 wire and orthogonally mounted strain gauge pairs in half bridge configurations. An Arduino microcontroller based DAQ system and a modular test stand were developed to facilitate calibration of the force sensor and testing of IPMCs. The overall system cost, approximately $200 USD, was able to achieve a force resolution of 0.49 mN. Calibration of the force sensor was accomplished gravimetrically and the data was processed in an Arduino-LabVIEW™ interface. An ionic polymer-carbon composite (IPCC) fabrication concept was also developed that utilizes buckypaper (BP) electrodes, electrospun nanofibrous Nafion mats, and EMI-Tf ionic liquid for hydration. The IPCC concept has the potential to achieve faster actuation rates, larger deflections, and longer operations in air compared to IPMCs. The IPCC fabrication process developed takes a fraction of the time compared to conventional IPMC fabrication and can be applied to IPMC fabrication for production on an industrial scale.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Actuators; Addition polymerization; Organic conductors

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)


Kathleen Lamkin-Kennard

Advisor/Committee Member

Michael Schrlau

Advisor/Committee Member

Wayne Walter


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TJ223/A25 C44 2016


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