Carbon nanotube and graphene-based bioinspired electrochemical actuators

L. Kong, Wei Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationLiterature reviewAcademic researchpeer-review

202 Citations (Scopus)


Bio-inspired actuation materials, also called artificial muscles, have attracted great attention in recent decades for their potential application in intelligent robots, biomedical devices, and micro-electro-mechanical systems. Among them, ionic polymer metal composite (IPMC) actuator has been intensively studied for their impressive high-strain under low voltage stimulation and air-working capability. A typical IPMC actuator is composed of one ion-conductive electrolyte membrane laminated by two electron-conductive metal electrode membranes, which can bend back and forth due to the electrode expansion and contraction induced by ion motion under alternating applied voltage. As its actuation performance is mainly dominated by electrochemical and electromechanical process of the electrode layer, the electrode material and structure become to be more crucial to higher performance. The recent discovery of one dimensional carbon nanotube and two dimensional graphene has created a revolution in functional nanomaterials. Their unique structures render them intriguing electrical and mechanical properties, which makes them ideal flexible electrode materials for IPMC actuators in stead of conventional metal electrodes. Currently although the detailed effect caused by those carbon nanomaterial electrodes is not very clear, the presented outstanding actuation performance gives us tremendous motivation to meet the challenge in understanding the mechanism and thus developing more advanced actuator materials. Therefore, in this review IPMC actuators prepared with different kinds of carbon nanomaterials based electrodes or electrolytes are addressed. Key parameters which may generate important influence on actuation process are discussed in order to shed light on possible future research and application of the novel carbon nanomateials based bio-inspired electrochemical actuators. Carbon nanotubes and graphene have exceptional electrical, mechanical, and electromechanical properties, which makes them ideal candidates for advanced actuator materials. In this review, fundamental and recent developements of these carbon nanomaterials based IPMC electrochemical actuators are discussed in order to shed light on next-generation bio-inspired actuators with higher performance. © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1025-1043
Number of pages19
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • air-working
  • carbon nanotube
  • electromechanical
  • graphene
  • ionic actuator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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