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Bio-Inspired Polymer Composite Actuator and Generator Driven by Water Gradients

Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 186-189
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230262

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Abstract

Here we describe the development of a water-responsive polymer film. Combining both a rigid matrix (polypyrrole) and a dynamic network (polyol-borate), strong and flexible polymer films were developed that can exchange water with the environment to induce film expansion and contraction, resulting in rapid and continuous locomotion. The film actuator can generate contractile stress up to 27 megapascals, lift objects 380 times heavier than itself, and transport cargo 10 times heavier than itself. We have assembled a generator by associating this actuator with a piezoelectric element. Driven by water gradients, this generator outputs alternating electricity at ~0.3 hertz, with a peak voltage of ~1.0 volt. The electrical energy is stored in capacitors that could power micro- and nanoelectronic devices.

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