By using aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) reinforced epoxy composites possessing a negative coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) as well as high Young's modulus and aluminum foils, novel electrothermal bimorph actuators are fabricated. U-shaped bimorph actuators are formed by cutting out the middle part of the composite/aluminum laminates, where the MWCNT-aligned direction is parallel to the length direction of the U-shaped bimorph actuators. We demonstrate that the bimorph actuators with a free length of 16 mm show a large bending displacement and force output, and their values are 7.6–10.0 mm and 0.8–7.8 mN under a DC voltage of 5.2–6.0 V. Based on these results, the bending displacement and force output of the bimorph actuator are modeled by combining strength-of-materials theories and rule of mixtures (Voigt model and Turner's model). By using these models, we indicate contributions from two sources toward the increased bending displacement and force output in the bimorph actuator: (i) designing the Young's modulus and negative CTE of the composite layer by controlling the MWCNT volume fraction and the dimensional parameters (especially thickness) of the bimorph actuator; (ii) selecting materials having a high Young's modulus as well as a large CTE as the second layer.
- Carbon nanotube
- Coefficient of thermal expansion
- Electrothermal bimorph actuator
- Young's modulus