Electroactive polymers (EAP) consist of materials capable of changing dimensions and/or shape in response to electrical stimuli. Most EAPs are also capable of generating electrical energy in response to applied mechanical forces. These polymeric materials exhibit properties well beyond what conventional metal or plastic-based actuators can offer, including very high mechanical flexibility (can be stretched to twice their initial size), low density, a high grade of processability, scalability, microfabrication readiness and, in most cases, low cost. Micro-EAPs enable a new broad range of applications for which large strains and forces are desirable, and for which built-in intelligence is necessary.
The main objective of the project will be the improvement of the career perspectives (in academia and in industry) of young researchers by training them at the forefront of research in the field of smart soft systems made of EAP microactuators for advanced miniaturized devices. The overall objective for the scientific programme is research and development of EAP materials and their integration for industrial applications. Special attention will be devoted to the development of microactuators. The field of smart materials is growing extremely fast. Materials whose stiffness and shape can be controlled, and that are capable of sensing their shape allow new classes of compliant complex systems. Through the MICACT programme, we hope to ensure that European researchers keep their leading role in this blossoming field, and to help them transition to industrial positions.
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