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Polymeric gels are biphasic systems composed of a solid phase or elastic matrix permeated by a fluid, generally water. These systems exhibit plastic contraction with changes in temperature, pH, magnetic or electrical field, and have a vast number of applications. Gel actuators are characterized by large strains (50% or more) and lower forces than conducting polymers:

These polymers have the potential of matching the force and energy density of biological muscles.  In polyacrylonitrile, for example, changes in pH from acidic to alkaline induces actuation through swelling of the gel, although ionic diffusion is somewhat hindered due to the gel structure.

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