Air Force

Moisture and temperature responsive polymers

State of the art humidity driven organic actuators


Certain polymeric materials deform in response to light, temperature, chemicals, or electronic stimulus. These polymer actuators are of interest for micro and nano scale devices across industries. Some materials have been shown to crawl under exposure to water. Such a “soft-motor transduces chemical potential of water sorption into a continuous circular actuator motion. These tiny machines can lift objects 380 times their weight and transport cargo 10 times their weight. With these types of data coming from the research field, industry is starting to take notice. However, significant work will be needed to move this technology from the lab bench to the product shelf.

Air Force researchers have synthesized and characterized a series of simple but new ester–sulfone (ES)-containing polyimides and related thermally derived copolymers with excellent mechanical responsivity to humidity relative to structurally similar polyimides containing CO2H. These responsive polymers function in both wet and dry environments.

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