Award Date

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

Woosoon Yim

Second Committee Member

Woosoon Yim

Third Committee Member

Kwan Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Mohamed B. Trabia

Fifth Committee Member

Markus Berli

Number of Pages



Ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs) are some of the most well-known electro-active polymers. This is due to their large deformation provided a relatively low voltage source. IPMCs have been acknowledged as a potential candidate for biomedical applications such as cardiac catheters and surgical probes; however, there is still no existing mass manufacturing of IPMCs. This study intends to provide a theoretical framework which could be used to design practical purpose IPMCs depending on the end users interest.

This study begins by investigating methodologies used to develop quantify the physical actuation of an IPMC in 3-dimensional space. This approach is taken in two separate means; however, both approaches utilize the finite element method. The first approach utilizes the finite element method in order to describe the dynamic response of a segmented IPMC actuator. The first approach manually constructs each element with a local coordinate system. Each system undergoes a rigid body motion along the element and deformation of the element is expressed in the local coordinate frame. The physical phenomenon in this system is simplified by utilizing a lumped RC model in order to simplify the electro-mechanical phenomena in the IPMC dynamics.

The second study investigates 3D modeling of a rod shaped IPMC actuator by explicitly coupling electrostatics, transport phenomenon, and solid mechanics. This portion of the research will briefly discuss the mathematical background that more accurately quantifies the physical phenomena. Solving for the 3-dimensional actuation is explicitly carried out again by utilizing the finite element method. The numerical result is conducted in a software package known as COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS. This simulation allows for explicit geometric rendering as well as more explicit quantification of the physical quantities such as concentration, electric field, and deflection

The final study will conduct design optimization on the COMSOL simulation in order to provide conceptual motivation for future designs. Utilizing a multi-physics analysis approach on a three dimensional cylinder and tube type IPMC provides physically accurate results for time dependent end effector displacement given a voltage source. Simulations are conducted with the finite element method and are also validated with empirical evidences. Having an in-depth understanding of the physical coupling provides optimal design parameters that cannot be altered from a standard electro-mechanical coupling. These parameters are altered in order to determine optimal designs for end-effector displacement, maximum force, and improved mobility with limited voltage magnitude. Design alterations are conducted on the electrode patterns in order to provide greater mobility, electrode size for efficient bending, and Nafion diameter for improved force. The results of this study will provide optimal design parameters of the IPMC for different applications.


Engineering Science and Materials | Materials Science and Engineering | Mathematics | Mechanical Engineering

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit