Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Reza Montazami

Second Advisor

Wei Hong


Ionic electroactive polymer (IEAP) transducers are a class of smart structures based on polymers that can be designed as soft actuators or sensors. IEAP actuators exhibit a high mechanical response to an external electrical stimulus. Conversely, they produce electrical signals when subjected to mechanical force. IEAP transducers are mainly composed of four different components: The ionomeric membrane (usually Nafion) is an ion permeable polymer that acts as the backbone of the transducer. Two conductive network composite (CNC) layer on both sides of the ionomeric membrane that enhance the surface conductivity and serve as an extra reservoir to the electrolytes. The electrolytes, (usually ionic liquids (IL)), which provides the mobile ions. And two outer electrodes on both sides of the transducer to either provide a distributed applied potential across the actuators (usually gold leaves) or to collect the generated signals from the sensors (usually copper electrodes). Any variation in any of these components or the operating conditions will directly affect the performance of the IEAP transduces. In this dissertation, we studied some of the parameters dominating the performance of the IEAP transducers by varying some of the transducers components or the transducers operating conditions in order to enhance their performance.

The first study was conducted to understand the influence of ionic liquid concentration on the electromechanical performance of IEAP actuators. The IL weight percentage (wt%) was varied from 10% to 30% and both the electromechanical (induced strain) and the electrochemical (the current flow across the actuators) were studied. The results from this study showed an enhanced electrochemical performance (current flow is higher for higher IL wt%) and a maximum electromechanical strain of approximately 1.4% at 22 wt% IL content. A lower induced strain was noticed for IL wt% lower or higher than 22%.

The second study was to investigate the effect of changing the morphology of the CNC on the sensing performance of IEAP stress sensors. In this study, small salt molecules were added to the CNC layers. Salt molecules directly affected the morphology of the CNC layers resulting in a thicker, more porous, and high conductive CNCs. As a result, the ionic conductivity increased through the CNC layers and sensing performance was enhanced significantly.

In the third study, a non-linear angular deformation (limb-like motion) was achieved by varying the CNC layers of the IEAP actuators by adding some conjugated polymers (CP) patterns during the fabrication of the actuators. It was found that the segments with the CP layers will only expand and never contract during the actuation process. Depending on the direction of motion and the location of the CP layers, different actuation shapes such as square or triangular shapes were achieved rather than the typical circular bending.

In the fourth study, the influence of temperature on the electromechanical properties of the IEAP actuators was examined. In this study, both electromechanical and electrochemical studies were conducted for actuators that were operated at temperatures ranging from 25 °C to 90 °C. The electromechanical results showed a lower cationic curvature with increasing temperature up to 70 °C. On the other hand, a maximum anionic curvature was achieved at 50 °C with a sudden decrease after 50 °C. Actuators started to lose functionality and showed unpredictable performance at temperatures higher than 70 °C. Electrochemically, an enhancement of the ionic conductivity was resulted from increasing temperature up to 80 °C. A sudden increase in current flow was recorded at 90 °C indicating a shorted circuit and actuator failure.

Finally, in the fifth study, protons in Nafion membranes were exchanged with other counterions of different Van der Waals volumes. The ionic conductivity was measured for IEAP membranes with different counterions at different temperatures. The results showed higher ionic conductivities across membranes with larger Van der Waals volume counterions and higher temperatures. A different ionic conductivity behavior was also noticed for temperatures ranging from 30 ºC to 55 ºC than temperatures between 55 ºC and 70 ºC after fitting the data with the Arrhenius conductivity equation.

Copyright Owner

Abdallah Mohammad Almomani



File Format


File Size

170 pages