While increasing power output is the most straight-forward solution for faster and stronger motion in technology, sports, or elsewhere, efficiency is what separates the best from the rest. In nature, where the possibilities of power increase are limited, efficiency of motion is particularly important; the same principle can be applied to the emerging biomimetic and bio-interacting technologies. In this work, by applying hints from nature, we consider possible approaches of increasing the efficiency of motion through liquid medium of bilayer ionic electroactive polymer actuations, focusing on the reduction of friction by means of surface tension and hydrophobicity. Conducting polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bilayers were chosen as the model actuator system. The actuation medium consisted of aqueous solutions containing tetramethylammonium chloride and sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate in different ratios. The roles of ion concentrations and the surface tension are discussed. Hydrophobicity of the PET support layer was further tuned by adding a spin-coated silicone layer to it. As expected, both approaches increased the displacement—the best results having been obtained by combining both, nearly doubling the bending displacement. The simple approaches for greatly increasing actuation motion efficiency can be used in any actuator system operating in a liquid medium.
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