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Actuator Devices Including Nanoscale Fiber Films

Tech ID:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Zhiyong (Richard) Liang
Licensing Manager:

This present invention describes a novel technique to fabricate carbon nanotube or nanofiber thin films (buckypapers)/solid electrolyte actuator devices for lightweight, high performance actuator and morphing structure applications. The method includes two nanoscale fiber films adjacent to a solid polymer electrolyte positioned at least partially in between. Moreover, the solid polymer electrolyte is affixed to the two nanoscale fiber films. The nanoscale fiber films may be buckypapers made of carbon nanotubes. The actuator is capable of dry actuation.

This new approach to prepare buckypaper actuators can eliminate the need to use insulation layer in structures and retains high concentration and conducting of nanotube networks in the actuators, which are critical to achieve high performance actuation. More importantly, all the actuators can work properly in open air, which is critical for real-world applications. High nanotube loading and good conducting networks in buckypapers lead to improved actuation performance. Furthermore, the actuator can be easily laminated or encapsulated with polymer films or coating to resist environmental effects. Through improvements of nanotube dispersion, alignment and conductivity of buckypapers, we can further enhance and optimize actuation performance. The invention is a technical breakthrough to realize real-world engineering applications of nanotube-based actuators. The invention overcomes the major technique barriers, such as working in liquid electrolyte and lower performance, of current liquid electrolyte and nanotube/polymer mixture-based actuator systems.

Due to exceptional high mechanical properties and lightweight of carbon nanotube and nanofiber materials, lightweight and high performance actuation can be expected for both immediate and near future engineering applications, such as morphing structures of aircraft and nanoscale/microscope actuators for device applications (for instance, actuators for driving microscale).