Towards Poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene-chlorotrifluoroethylene)-Based Soft Actuators: Films and Electrospun Aligned Nanofiber Mats

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2021 Jan 12;11(1):172. doi: 10.3390/nano11010172.


In the pursuit of designing a linear soft actuator with a high force-to-weight ratio and a stiffening behavior, this paper analyzes the electrostrictive effect of the poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene-chlorotrifluoroethylene) polymer in the form of film and aligned electrospun nanofiber mat. An experimental setup is realized to evaluate the electrostrictive effect of the specimens disjointly from the Maxwell stress. In particular, an uniaxial load test is designed to evaluate the specimens' forces produced by their axial contraction (i.e., the electrostrictive effect) when an external electric field is applied, while an uniaxial tensile load test is designed to show the specimens' stiffening properties. This electro-mechanical analysis demonstrates that both the film and the nanofiber mat are electrostrictive, and that the nanofiber mat exhibits a force-to-weight ratio ∼65% higher than the film and, therefore, a larger electrostrictive effect. Moreover, both the film and the nanofiber mat show a stiffening behavior, which is more evident for the nanofiber mat than the film and is proportional to the weight of the material. This study concludes that, thanks to its electro-mechanical properties, the poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene-chlorotrifluoroethylene), especially in the form of aligned electrospun nanofiber mat, has high potential to be used as electro-active polymer for soft actuators in biomedical and biorobotics applications.

Keywords: P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE); electrostriction; nanofibers; soft actuators.