Functionally antagonistic polyelectrolyte for electro-ionic soft actuator

Van Hiep Nguyen, Saewoong Oh, Manmatha Mahato, Rassoul Tabassian, Hyunjoon Yoo, Seong Gyu Lee, Mousumi Garai, Kwang Jin Kim, Il Kwon Oh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Electro-active ionic soft actuators have been intensively investigated as an artificial muscle for soft robotics due to their large bending deformations at low voltages, small electric power consumption, superior energy density, high safety and biomimetic self-sensing actuation. However, their slow responses, poor durability and low bandwidth, mainly resulting from improper distribution of ionic conducting phase in polyelectrolyte membranes, hinder practical applications to real fields. We report a procedure to synthesize efficient polyelectrolyte membranes that have continuous conducting network suitable for electro-ionic artificial muscles. This functionally antagonistic solvent procedure makes amphiphilic Nafion molecules to assemble into micelles with ionic surfaces enclosing non-conducting cores. Especially, the ionic surfaces of these micelles combine together during casting process and form a continuous ionic conducting phase needed for high ionic conductivity, which boosts the performance of electro-ionic soft actuators by 10-time faster response and 36-time higher bending displacement. Furthermore, the developed muscle shows exceptional durability over 40 days under continuous actuation and broad bandwidth below 10 Hz, and is successfully applied to demonstrate an inchworm-mimetic soft robot and a kinetic tensegrity system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number435
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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