Thin ink-jet printed trilayer actuators composed of PEDOT:PSS on interpenetrating polymer networks
Mass production of conducting polymer actuators with reliable performance is envisaged in the field of artificial muscles. In this study, inkjet printing and spin coating – two established technologies for large-scale production – were combined for microactuator fabrication. Actuators based on poly(3,4-ethylenedioxy-thiophene):poly(styrene sulfonate) electrodes (PEDOT:PSS, 2.2 μm thick, 190 S cm−1), which were inkjet-printed onto a spin-coated membrane of an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) thin film composed of nitrile butadiene rubber and poly(ethylene oxide) (PEDOT:PSS-IPN-PEDOT:PSS) with a total thickness of 12.7 μm, were prepared and studied. Our goal was to investigate the performance of the trilayers in linear actuation, in aqueous and organic (propylene carbonate) solutions of bis(trifluoromethane)sulfonimide lithium salt (LiTFSI) used as electrolytes, and in bending actuation in air using an ionic liquid as the electrolyte. Electro-chemo-mechanical deformation (ECMD) measurements were consistent with electrochemical measurements showing a strain of 3% in aqueous electrolyte and 1% in propylene carbonate. A strain of 0.14% in the bending mode in the ionic liquid was observed due to electric double layer charging, while in electrolyte solutions, redox reactions determined the linear actuation properties. In the aqueous electrolyte, a specific capacitance of 193 F g−1 was measured for the printed PEDOT:PSS films, with potential for applications in supercapacitors.