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Proceedings Paper

Improved signal conditioning circuit design for ionic polymer transducers as sensors
Author(s): Barbar J. Akle; Nakad Zahi
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Paper Abstract

Several researchers are actively studying Ionomeric polymer transducers (IPT) as a large strain low voltage Electro- Active Polymer (EAP) actuator. EAPs are devices that do not contain any moving parts leading to a potential large life time. Furthermore, they are light weight and flexible. IPT have the ability to generate bending strains on the order 5% when +2V potential is applied across its thickness. As sensors however, IPTs are proven to be superior compared to any other EAP material when a charge amplifier is used as a signal conditioner. Furthermore, researchers has developed miniature sensors from IPTs that could be flush mounted to a surface and measure shear stresses due to fluid flow at even low Reynolds numbers. Sensor resolution is on the order of 10 mPa enables it to be useful as a wall shear stress sensor for several aero/hydrodynamic and biomedical applications. In this paper a new signal conditioning circuit is designed with superior sensing capabilities compared to the old circuit. In the new circuit the IPT is biased with a small voltage on the order of 5mV to 25 mV. Initial experimental results demonstrated 30% enhancement in signal to noise ratio compared to the old circuit. Furthermore, this circuit enables the use of IPT polymers with larger capacitance compared to the previous circuits. Akle et al. demonstrated that the capacitance of an ionic polymer transducer is proportional to transducer performance. Ionic polymers are generally made of an ion exchange membrane, typically Nafion, coated with a flexible electrode. In this study the Direct Assembly Process (DAP) is used for the fabrication of IPT. The DAP consists of mixing a metal particulate with an ionomer solution and spraying it directly on a diluent saturated ion conducting membrane. The thickness of the electrode is controlled by altering the amount of the ionomer/metal mix sprayed on the membrane. Thicker electrodes provide IPT with a larger capacitance, and hence larger sensitivity is obtained using the new circuit. It was impossible to use the previous signal conditioning circuit for high capacitance sensors. Finally an attempt to model these sensors along with the circuit is provided. By understanding the interaction between the IPT and the signal conditioning circuit we can create devices with even higher sensitivity. The presented circuit will help in modeling and predicting the response of the sensor.

Paper Details

Date Published: 30 March 2009
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 7292, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2009, 72921J (30 March 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.815851
Show Author Affiliations
Barbar J. Akle, Lebanese American Univ. (Lebanon)
Nakad Zahi, Lebanese American Univ. (Lebanon)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7292:
Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2009
Masayoshi Tomizuka, Editor(s)

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