arm-wrestlingnanoroverElectroactive Polymer Actuators* - JPL's NDEAA Technologies Website

*Artificial Muscles

This homepage is the electroactive polymer actuators website of the JPL's NDEAA Technologies.

Electroactive polymers (EAP) are being developed to enable effective, miniature, inexpensive, light and low power actuators for planetary applications. Various EAP materials, also called artificial muscles, are being investigated and new methods of characterizing them are being developed. A series of applications were demonstrated and can be seen on the EAP-in-Action homepage (video clippings). These applications include surface wiper, robotic arm components (lifter and gripper) and haptic interface. The surface wiper was demonstrated to be effective in removing minute dust particles and it was selected in 1999 as a baseline technology for the MUSES-CN mission. Initial plans involved the use of a pair of EAP surface wipers for dust removal from the visual/IR window of the Nanorover. The MUSES-CN flight project is the world's first asteroid sample return mission and it is a collaboration between Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences and NASA, and is scheduled for launch in January 2002.
Even though the mission was cancelled, the selection of EAP actuated wiper as a baseline for this mission has been a major milestone that led to a worldwide recognition of the potential of these materials.
The material that was used for bending the surface wiper is known as IPMC (Ion-exchange Polymer Metal Composite) and our study indicates that there are many challenges that still need to be overcome before the material can be transition to space flight. These challenges include: permanent deformation of the material under DC voltage, the material dehydrates though the protective coating, and electrolysis takes place during activation above 1.23-V.

In recognition of the limitations of EAP as actuators and artificial muscles, Dr. Bar-Cohen initiated an SPIE International Conference on the subject, which was held in Newport Beach, CA on March 1-2, 1999. Also, a webpage was formed to link the various EAP websites worldwide:

WW-EAP webhubWorldWide EAP Actuators (Artificial Muscles) Webhub.

robotic arm



Robotic arm with 4-finger EAP gripper that is lifted/dropped by an EAP actuator

Dust wiper using an ESLI blade actuated by a bending-EAP Li+/Gold IPMC (courtacy of Dr. Oguro, ONRI)

Simulated EAP dust wiper

News clipping covering the JPL's NDEAA EAP R&D activity conductive polymers activated by 2V/50mA


Bullet1996 NASA Telerobotics Review - Low Mass Muscle Actuators (LoMMAs)

Bullet"Polymer Piezoelectric Transducers for Ultrasonic NDE" NDTnet - September 1996, Vol. 1, No. 09


**The following requires Acrobat Reader**

Bullet1997 NASA Telerobotics Review - LoMMAs

BulletElectroactive Polymer (EAP) Actuators - SPIE, San Diego, CA March 1997

BulletEAP Robotics - SPIE, San Diego, CA March 1998, 3329-07

BulletEAP Materials - SPIE, San Diego, CA March 1998., paper 3324-32

BulletEAP Ion-Exchange (bending actuator/sensor) - SPIE, San Diego, CA March 1998

BulletRobotic Arm Actuated by EAP and Operated Equivalently to Human Arm and Hand - Robotics98, Albuquerque, NM, April 1998

Bullet"IPMC as Biomimetic Sensors, Actuators & Artificial Muscles," Smart Materials & Structures J., Vol. 7, No. 6, (December, 1998) pp. R15-R30

BulletElectro-Active Polymer (EAP) actuators for planetary applications, SPIE , Newport Beach, CA, March 1-2, 1999 paper 3669-05

BulletElectrical Impedance of Ionic Polymeric Metal Composites, SPIE, ibid, paper 3669-09

BulletScaling Laws of Microactuators and Potential Applications of Electroactive Polymers in MEMS, SPIE, ibid, paper 3669-33

BulletFlexible low-mass devices and mechanisms actuated by Electroactive Polymers, SPIE, ibid, 1999 paper 3669-38

BulletElectro-statically stricted polymers (ESSP), SPIE, ibid, paper 3669-41

Bullet"Ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs) as biomimetic sensors, actuators and artificial muscles - a review" Smart Mater. Struct. 7 No 6 (December 1998) R15-R30, PII: S0964-1726(1998) 98025-9

Bullet"Electroactive Polymer (EAP) Actuating a Dust Wiper and Miniature Robotic Arm," SPIE Newsletter, International Technical Group on Robotics and Machine Perception, July 1999

Bullet"Challenges to the transition of IPMC artificial muscle actuators to practical application"Document ID: 31295, MRS Symposium: FF: Electroactive Polymers, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 1999 at Boston, MS

Bullet"Electroactive Polymers as Artificial Muscles - Capabilities, Potentials and Challenges" Keynote Presentation at the Robotics 2000 and Space 2000. Albuquerque, NM, USA, February 28 - March 2, 2000

Bullet"Electroactive Polymers As Artificial Muscles - Capabilities, Potentials And Challenges"HANDBOOK ON BIOMIMETICS, Yoshihito Osada (Chief Ed.), Section 11, in Chapter 8, "Motion" paper #134, publisher: NTS Inc., Expected on Aug. 2000

Bullet"Electroactive Polymers as Artificial Muscles Changing Robotics Paradigms," NSMMS Symposium, San Diego, CA, 27 Feb. to 2 March 2000.

Bullet"Electroactive Polymers (EAP) Characterization Methods," SPIE Smart Structures 2000, EAPAD Conf. Newport Beach, CA, March 2000, paper 3987-4

Bullet"Challenges to the transition of IPMC artificial muscle actuators to practical application," SPIE Smart Structures 2000, EAPAD Conf. ibid, paper 3987-21

Bullet"Transition of EAP material from novelty to practical applications - are we there yet?," SPIE Smart Structures 2001, EAPAD Conf., Newport Beach, CA, March 2000, paper 4329-02

Bullet"Characterization of the Electromechanical Properties of EAP materials," SPIE Smart Structures 2001, EAPAD Conf., paper 4329-43

Bullet"Virtual reality robotic telesurgery simulations using MEMICA haptic system," SPIE Smart Structures 2001, EAPAD Conf. ibid, paper 4329-47

Bullet"Androids: application of EAP as artificial muscles to entertainment industry," SPIE Smart Structures 2001, EAPAD Conf. ibid, paper 4329-74

Bullet"Electroactive Polymers as Artificial Muscles - Reality and Challenges," 42nd AIAA Structures, paper #2001-1492, Seattle WA, April 16-19 2001

Bullet"Nanotechnology Using Electroactive Polymers as Artificial Muscles," MSTnews, International Newsletter on Microsystems and MEMS (June 2001)

Bullet"Electro-active polymers: current capabilities and challenges," Paper 4695-02, Proceedings of the SPIE Smart Structures and Materials Symposium, EAPAD Conference, San Diego, CA, March 17-19, 2002

Bullet"Measurements and Macro Models of Ionomeric Polymer-Metal Composites (IPMC)," Paper 4695-27, ibid

Bullet"Characterization of the Electromechanical Properties of Ionomeric Polymer-Metal Composite (IPMC)," Paper 4695-33, ibid

Bullet"The use of Piezoelectric Resonators for the Characterization of Mechanical Properties of Polymers," Paper 4695-35, ibid

Bullet"Biologically Inspired Intelligent Robotics," Paper 5051-02, Proceedings of the SPIE Smart Structures Conference, San Diego, CA., Mar 2-6. 2003

Bullet"Numerical modeling of single-layer electroactive polymer mirrors for space applications," Paper 5051-45, ibid

BulletKeynote presentation at the 2003 ICMENS "Biologically Inspired Intelligent Robots Using Artificial Muscles," Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 20 to 23, 2003"

BulletY. Bar-Cohen, "Electroactive Polymers (EAP),” Electrochemistry Encyclopedia, Z. Nagy (Ed.),  hosted by Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. (Dec. 2004)

Bullet"Wirelessly controllable inflated electroactive polymer (EAP) reflectors," Proceedings of the 2005 SPIE Smart Structures Conference, San Diego, CA. March 7-10, 2005, Paper 5759-52

Bullet"Biomimetics: mimicking and inspired-by biology," Proceedings of the 2005 SPIE Smart Structures Conference, San Diego, CA. March 7-10, 2005, Paper 5759-02


Publications in Journals and Proceedings

Y. Bar-Cohen, “Humanoids and the role of electroactive materials/mechanisms in advancing their capability”, Invited Paper, Symposium H-3: Device development and integration technologies, Symposium H - Electroactive Polymers and Shape Memory Polymers: Advances in Materials and Devices, CIMTEC 2016 - 5th International Conference “Smart and Multifunctional Materials, Structures and Systems” & 11th International Conference “Medical Applications of Novel Biomaterials and Nanotechnology”, Perugia, Italy June 5-9, 2016


LoMMAs Team

dust wiperblueballEAP support technology - Dr. Joycelyn Harrison and Dr. Joseph Smith, NASA LaRC

blueballSelf-assembled Monolayering - Prof. Rick Claus, Virginia Tech

blueballElectroRheological Fluids for Haptic Interfaces & Robotic Telepresence - Prof. D. Mavroidis, and C. Pfeiffer, Rutgers U.

blueballEnergy Science Laboratories, Inc., San Diego, CA. - Dr. Timothy Knowles

blueballIntroduced and supplied Na+/Pt type IPMC films - Prof. Mohsen Shahinpoor, University of New Mexico, NM (part of LoMMAs in FY'96 to FY'98)

blueballMicroElectronicMechanicalSystems (MEMS) on polymers - Prof. Chang Liu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

blueballGel Polymers - Prof. Paul Calvert, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

blueballInkprinting - Dr. David Wallace, MicroFab


International Technology Cooperation

blueballDr. Keisuke Oguro, Chief of Hydrogen, Energy Section, Osaka National Research Institute, Osaka, Japan

Prof. Satoshi Tadokoro, Dept. of Computer & Systems Engineering, Kobe University, Japan



blueballStructures & Materials Applications at JPL


blueballUCLA - The EAP robotic arm with the 4-finger gripper (shown above) was constructed by the graduate students: Cinkiat Abidin, Brian Lucky, Harry Mashhoud and Marlene Turner, under the guidance of Dr. Bar-Cohen. This robotic arm was constructed in FY'97 as the students' research project meeting the academic requirements at the Integrated Manufacturing Engineering (IME) Dept.


Last updated - July 22, 2002