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This paper addresses the design and properties of an intelligent optimal control for a nonlinear flexible robot arm that is driven by a permanent-magnet synchronous servo motor. First, the dynamic model of a flexible robot arm system with a tip mass is introduced. When the tip mass of the flexible robot arm is a rigid body, not only bending vibration but also torsional vibration are occurred. In this paper, the vibration states of the nonlinear system are assumed to he unmeasurable, i.e., only the actuator position can be acquired to feed into a suitable control system for stabilizing the vibration states indirectly. Then, an intelligent optimal control system is proposed to control the motor-mechanism coupling system for periodic motion. In the intelligent optimal control system a fuzzy neural network controller is used to learn a nonlinear function in the optimal control law, and a robust controller is designed to compensate the approximation error. Moreover, a simple adaptive algorithm is proposed to adjust the uncertain bound in the robust controller avoiding the chattering phenomena. The control laws of the intelligent optimal control system are derived in the sense of optimal control technique and Lyapunov stability analysis, so that system-tracking stability can be guaranteed in the closed-loop system. In addition, numerical simulation and experimental results are given to verify the effectiveness of the proposed control scheme.