Designing tubular conducting polymer actuators for wireless electropumping†
Rational design and shaping of soft smart materials offer potential applications that cannot be addressed with rigid systems. In particular, electroresponsive elastic materials are well-suited for developing original active devices, such as pumps and actuators. However, applying the electric stimulus requires usually a physical connection between the active part and a power supply. Here we report about the design of an electromechanical system based on conducting polymers, enabling the actuation of a wireless microfluidic pump. Using the electric field-induced asymmetric polarization of miniaturized polypyrrole tubes, it is possible to trigger simultaneously site-specific chemical reactions, leading to shrinking and swelling in aqueous solution without any physical connection to a power source. The complementary electrochemical reactions occurring at the opposite extremities of the tube result in a differential change of its diameter. In turn, this electromechanical deformation allows inducing highly controlled fluid dynamics. The performance of such a remotely triggered electrochemically active soft pump can be fine-tuned by optimizing the wall thickness, length and inner diameter of the material. The efficient and fast actuation of the polymer pump opens up new opportunities for actuators in the field of fluidic or microfluidic devices, such as controlled drug release, artificial organs and bioinspired actuators.