Patterning and electrical interfacing of individually controllable conducting polymer microactuators
Conducting polymer actuators such as polypyrrole (PPy) microactuators are interesting candidates to drive autonomous microrobotic devices that require low weight and low power. Simple PPy tri-layer bending type microactuators that operate in air have been demonstrated previously but they lack individual control and had problems with short circuiting due to electrical connections. The lack of micropatterning methods and proper interfacing are currently major obstacles in the development of PPy tri-layer microactuators. Here, we report for the first time methods for successfully patterning and interfacing of such tri-layer PPy microactuators. The PPy tri-layer actuators were patterned using adapted microfabrication technology including photolithography. The interface was based on a flexible printed circuit board comprising the electronic circuit into which the actuator unit was embedded. It showed that the microfabricated tri-layer actuators functioned as good as the normally fabricated actuators. The new interface seemed to actually improve the actuator performance. This interfacing method could also be applied to other electroactive polymer devices, such as ion polymer metal composites (IPMC) and dielectric elastomers (DE).