Indexed on: 14 Feb '08Published on: 14 Feb '08Published in: Nano Letters
This paper describes the electroactuation of microcantilevers coated on one side with cationic polyelectrolyte brushes. We observed very strong cantilever deflection by alternating the potential on the cantilever between +0.5 and -0.5 V at frequencies up to 0.25 Hz. The actuation resulted from significant increases in the expansive stresses in the polymer brush layer at both negative and positive potentials. However, the deflection at negative bias was significantly larger. We have developed a theoretical framework that correlates conformational changes of the polymer chains in the brush layer with the reorganization of ions due to the potential bias. The model predicts a strong increase in the polymer volume fraction, close to the interface, which results in large expansive stresses that bend the cantilever at negative potentials. The model also predicts that the actuation responds much stronger to negative potentials than positive potentials, as observed in the experiments.