Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

Kwang J. Kim

Second Committee Member

Hui Zhao

Third Committee Member

Pushkin Kachroo

Fourth Committee Member

Woosoon Yim

Fifth Committee Member

Dong-Chan Lee

Number of Pages



The primary focus of this study is to examine, understand, and model ionic electroactive polymer based systems in attempt to further develop this field of study. Physics-based modeling is utilized, as opposed to empirical modeling, to achieve a deeper insight to the underlying physics. The ionic electroactive polymer system of primary interest in this study is ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) devices. Other similar devices, such as anion-exchange membrane (AEM) type actuators and flow battery systems are also investigated using the developed model. The underlying physics are in the studies of transport phenomenon for describing the ionic flow within the polymer membrane, solid mechanics for describing deformation of the given devices, electric potential and electric currents physics for the voltage across the devices, and ion exchange along with chemical reaction in case of flow batteries. Specific details of these systems are analyzed, such as geometrical and electrode effects. The results in modeling IPMC actuators and sensors have been used to experimentally validate the modeling framework and have provided keen insight to the underlying physics behind these transduction phenomena. The developed models will benefit researchers in these fields and are expected to provide a better understanding of these systems. This study provides a framework for design and fabrication of advanced, highly integrated, ionic migration and exchange polymer-composite devices.

In particular, this work focuses on finite element simulations of ionic electroactive polymers using COMSOL Multiphysics versions 4.3 through 5.2, with primary focus on ionic polymer-metal composite devices. The basic framework model for IPMCs is of greatest importance and is the initial focus of this work. This is covered in Chapter 3 in detail with experimental comparison of results. Other aspects of interest are geometrical and electrode effects of IPMCs, which are discussed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4. Applications of the modeling framework, such as in modeling other electroactive polymer actuators is covered in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, which includes simulations of electrodeless artificial cilia actuators in lithium chloride (LiCl) electrolyte, discussion and modeling of all-Vanadium oxidation reduction (redox) flow battery devices, fluid-structure interactions with IPMCs, and discussion of implementing the modeling framework for anion type IPMCs. Two publications from Journal of Applied Physics and one paper accepted for publication from the Marine Technology Society Journal are included herein, with publisher permission. These papers focus directly on topics of interest to this work. They underwent several revisions and are included in full or large excerpt form to provide the most accurate description and discussion of these topics. The author of this dissertation is first author and did much of the work of one of the three papers; specific author contributions for the other two papers are detailed before each paper is presented, in which the author of this dissertation was primarily responsible for finite element simulations, discussion, and revisions. Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 contain conclusions and recommendations for future work, respectively.


actuators; composites; electromechanical; sensors; soft-robotics; transducers


Mechanical Engineering