To date, many processes have been used for the preparation of ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) artificial muscle membranes from conductive metals and perfluorosulfonic polymers such as Nafion. The most widely used of these methods is the platinum plating process, which involves chemical reduction of ionic salt solutions. Although these chemical electroding techniques produce IPMCs with outstanding surface electrodes and excellent performance characteristics, they are relatively costly and time-consuming. In this paper, we describe a novel fabrication process for fast preparation of low-cost Ni-Au-Nafion IPMCs. The process involves the formation of an adherent surface layer on prepared Nafion through DC sputter deposition of a fine-grained gold film, followed by electroplating of a thin and ductile nickel layer in a solution of aqueous nickel salts and boric acid. Preliminary results indicate that the Nafion-117-based IPMCs produced using this technique exhibit good surface conductivity and promising actuation performance, with 20 mg, 11.5 mm × 4.7 mm cantilever bending samples showing high displacements and tip forces up to 4 grams at 4 V. Our current research efforts are focused on achieving repeatable synthesis techniques and evaluating the properties and performance characteristics of the Au-Ni-Nafion IPMCs, especially in comparison to the popular platinum IPMCs.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jonathan_stolk/20/