NSF Microgrippers

UNM's Artificial Muscle Microgripper Lab

Located at the Manufacturing Technology and Training Center (MTTC), a few blocks south of the University of New Mexico's main campus, the UNM Artificial Muscle Microgripper Lab is a state of the art facility that researches artificial muscle microgrippers made from Ionic Polymer Metal Composites (IPMC). The activities in the research lab are focused on the design and improvement of microgrippers made from Ionic Polymer Metal Composites (IPMC) artificial muscle. IPMC are a type of electroactive polymer that bend in response to electrical stimulation. They are produced in sheets that resemble gold foil in appearance but are flexible and resilient like rubber. They can be cut to virtually any dimension and have the ability to operate in the wet or dry condition. IPMC are closely related to Teflon, so they are chemically inert and can withstand high and low temperatures. Lightweight, mechanically simple, and silent, they make excellent microgrippers.

The production of IPMC microgrippers is an involved multistep process. Lab activities include the design and testing of actuators and sensors, laser removal of IPMC, the creation of electroded holders, and measurement and modeling of muscle force. The lab's specific research interests include:

  • The design and testing of IPMC microgrippers.
  • The integration of sensor and actuator type IPMC into a single device that can sense its own deflection.
  • Design and control of multichannel IPMC that have deflection sensing capabilities.
  • CAD design and laser cutting of shaped IPMC, including the creation of channels on the IPMC surface.
  • Packaging of IPMC microgrippers, including the design of specialized IPMC holders that contain actuation and sensing circuitry.
  • Force modeling of shaped IPMC actuators.
  • 2D force measurements of arbitrarily shaped IPMC.
  • Design and control of segmented IPMC with specialized actuation profiles.