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Low power consumption and activation voltage combined with high flexibility and minimal weight make ionic polymer metal composites (IPMCs) well-suited for miniaturized underwater propulsion systems. In the present study, we investigate the flow field generated by an IPMC strip vibrating in a quiescent aqueous environment using planar particle image velocimetry. We use the time-averaged flow field to compute the momentum transfer to the fluid and estimate the mean thrust generated by the vibrating actuator. We find that the mean thrust produced by the vibrating IPMC increases with the Reynolds number, defined by the maximum tip speed and IPMC width, and is only marginally affected by the relative vibration amplitude. The results of this study can guide the optimization of IPMC-based propulsion systems for miniature biomimetic robotic swimmers.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2009