What are EAP artificial muscles?
EAPs represent a fast growing and promising scientific field of research and development. They are studied for devices and systems implemented with ‘smart materials’ inherently capable of changing dimensions and/or shape in response to suitable electrical stimuli, so as to transduce electrical energy into mechanical work. They can also operate in reverse mode, transducing mechanical energy into the electrical form. Therefore, they can be used as actuators, mechano-electrical sensors, as well as energy harvesters to generate electricity. For such tasks, EAPs show unique properties, such as sizable electrically-driven active strains or stresses, high mechanical flexibility, low density, structural simplicity, ease of processing and scalability, no acoustic noise and, in most cases, low costs. Owing to their functional and structural properties, electromechanical transducers based on these materials are usually refereed to as EAP ‘artificial muscles’.
EAPs are today studied for applications that so far have been unachievable with conventional actuation technologies, with usage spanning from the micro- to the macro- scale, in several fields, including robotics, automation, prosthetics, orthotics, artificial organs, optics, energy harvesting and even aerospace.
For further information, see Scientific background.
Europe hosts several research institutes with a well consolidated and recognised expertise in the EAP field. Actually, much of the early stage research/breakthroughs in the field have been pioneered by European research groups and still at present a lot of EAP competence is centred and led by a number of groups in Europe.
Aimed at addressing the widely perceived need for co-operation in the EAP field, these groups have adhered to an initiative coordinated by the University of Pisa aimed at establishing this network.
Today, ESNAM represents the first example, on global scale, of an organically structured scientific network in the EAP field, intended to strengthen the impact of EAP science and technology.
What does ESNAM do?
· Scientific cooperation in the framework of Working Groups;
· Organization and support of an annual international conference: EuroEAP conference;
· Creation of open databases: EuroEAP databases;
· Definition of standards and guidelines: EuroEAP standards;
· Creation and development of a European association: EuroEAP society.
A purposely integrated EuroEAP platform website (www.euroeap.eu) hosts the webpages of the EuroEAP conference, databases, standards and society.