Recent advances in fabricating controlled-morphology vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (VA-CNTs) with ultrahigh volume fraction create unique opportunities for markedly improving the electromechanical performance of ionic polymer conductor network composite (IPCNC) actuators. Continuous paths through inter-VA-CNT channels allow fast ion transport, and high electrical conduction of the aligned CNTs in the composite electrodes lead to fast device actuation speed (>10% strain/second). One critical issue in developing advanced actuator materials is how to suppress the strain that does not contribute to the actuation (unwanted strain) thereby reducing actuation efficiency. Here, experiments demonstrate that the VA-CNTs give an anisotropic elastic response in the composite electrodes, which suppresses the unwanted strain and markedly enhances the actuation strain (>8% strain under 4 V). The results reported here suggest pathways for optimizing the electrode morphology in IPCNCs using ultrahigh volume fraction VA-CNTs to further enhanced performance.
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