An introduction to conducting polymer actuators
Actuators comprise a diverse family of materials that respond mechanically to an external stimulus, most commonly electrical. The movements or forces generated are potentially useful in a wide variety of applications. The specific advantages of polymer actuators as compared with other actuator materials (e.g., piezoelectric ceramics or shape memory alloys) and mechanical drive systems (motors, engines, hydraulics, and pneumatics) relate mainly to their compact size and simple construction. Noiseless operation is another key advantage in some areas. Applications for these systems are being driven by the demands for humanoid robotics, micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS), and smart structures. Niche applications in biomedical devices and microfluidics are also being developed. This chapter focuses on conducting polymer actuators and describes their mechanism of operation, compares conducting polymers with other actuator materials, and considers some prototype applications.