The inspiration for new materials often comes from natural structures and systems which have evolved to optimize a specific physical property. Two such examples include the wing motions of birds for improved flight performance and leg movements of insects for all-scale stable robotics systems.
Successfully engineered systems depend heavily on the performance of engineered materials such as smart materials, active materials that have undergone a change in one or more properties in response to an external stimulus of chemical, electrical, thermal or optical nature.
Electroactive polymers (EAP) are smart materials that appeal to numerous industries because of their inexpensive, lightweight, biologically compatible and mechanically stable structures. They can tolerate considerable deformation, while maintaining ample power. They have a fast response time, very low density, high strain output, and outstanding pliability when compared to ceramics and shape memory alloys.
The applicability of piezoelectric nano/micro-fiber reinforced thin films is demonstrated in the wing structure of a micro air vehicle. Other research projects in the Group involves the optimization of EAP processing, electromechanical characterization and sensor-actuator applications.