Actuator Graphic
Depiction of the application of organic semiconductor nanotubes in artificial muscle. (Credit: Mohammad Reza Abidian)

Researchers are reporting a breakthrough in the field of materials science and engineering with the development of an electrochemical actuator that uses specialized organic semiconductor nanotubes (OSNTs). Currently in the early stages of development, the actuator will become a key part of research contributing to the future of robotic, bioelectronic, and biomedical science.

The OSNT electrochemical device exhibits high actuation performance with fast ion transport and accumulation and tunable dynamics in liquid and gel-polymer electrolytes. The researchers say the device demonstrates an excellent performance, including low power consumption/strain, a large deformation, fast response and excellent actuation stability.

The low power consumption/strain values for this OSNT actuator, even when it operates in liquid electrolyte, mark a profound improvement over previously reported electrochemical actuators operating in liquid and air, the researchers noted. The organic semiconductor nanotube actuator exhibited superior long-term stability compared with previously reported conjugated polymer-based actuators operating in liquid electrolyte.

To demonstrate potential applications, they designed and developed a micron-scale movable neural probe that is based on OSNT microactuators. This microprobe potentially can be implanted in the brain, where neural signal recordings that are adversely affected, by either damaged tissue or displacement of neurons, may be enhanced by adjusting the position of the movable microcantilevers.