Several smart active materials have been proposed and tested for the development of microactuators. Among these, conjugated polymers are of great interest because miniaturization improves their electrochemical properties, such as increasing the speed and stress output of microactuators, with respect to large-scale actuators. Recently we developed a novel fabrication process to obtain robust free-standing conductive ultra-thin films made of the conjugated polymer poly(3, 4-ethylenedioxythiophene) doped with the polyanion poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS). These conductive free-standing nanofilms, with thicknesses ranging between a few tens to several hundreds of nm, allow the realisation of new all polymer microactuators using facile microfabrication methods. Here, we report a novel processing method for manufacturing all polymer electrochemical microactuators. We fabricated and patterned free-standing PEDOT:PSS/SU8 bilayer microactuators in the form of microfingers of a variety of lengths using adapted microfabrication procedures. By imposing electrochemical oxidation/reduction cycles on the PEDOT:PSS we were able to demonstrate reversible actuation of the microactuators resulting in bending of the microfingers. A number of possible applications can be envisaged for these small, soft actuators, such as microrobotics and cell manipulation.
Taccola, S, F Greco, B Mazzolai, V Mattoli, E W H Jager
J. Micromech. Microeng.