The research submitted for this honors project comprises over two years of interdisciplinary studies conducted in the Laboratory for Materials Physics at Illinois Wesleyan University. The articles from the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics are reproduced in DC@IWU with permission from the American Institute of Physics.


Electromotility, the bending in response to an electric field, of polyelectrolyte gels in ionic solutions has been identified as a candidate for a potential chemomechanical engines such as muscles. We discovered that the underlying physics of these systems is more complex than previously believed. We found that the bending as a function of time obeys a square root power law. This points strongly towards a diffusion mechanism for the bending. Kinetic evidence for diffusion was independently corroborated by experiments on gels grown or bent in the presence of dyes. We explored the effects of varying poly-ion concentration in the backbone of the polymer and in the surrounding medium. In some cases, the electromotility cannot be described as simple bending.



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