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Computational modelling of actuation in functional nanoporous metal composites

Nanoporous metals exhibit a unique bicontinuous microstructure of interconnected nanowires, providing uninterrupted transport paths through both the solid and the pore space [1,2]. This microstructure results in impressive mechanical properties while and facilitates electroactive behaviour when the pore space is impregnated with an ion-conducting phase, e.g., an electroactive polymer. Combining the strong metal skeleton with polymers and their large strain capabilities has proved to be a promising avenue for research: The composite shows increased actuation strains while still retaining the metal’s superior mechanical properties.

In order to exploit the full potential of these nanocomposite actuators, a detailed understanding of the underlying structure-property relationships and means to predict the actuator’s response are necessary. Using continuum mechanical modelling and finite element simulations, the mechanical properties of this nanocomposite as well as it’s functional behaviour are investigated [3,4,5,6]. It can be shown that by modification of the nanocomposite’s structure, transport paths, mechanical properties and reaction times can be altered significantly, thus, providing the means to tailor the actuator behaviour to different applications.


[1] S. Bargmann et al., Generation of 3d representative volume elements (RVEs) for heterogeneous materials: a review, Prog. Mater. Sci. 96, 322-384, 2018.

[2] C. Soyarslan, S. Bargmann, M. Pradas, J. Weissmüller, 3d stochastic bicontinuous microstructures: generation, topology and elasticity, Acta Mater. 149, 326-340, 2018.

[3] E. Griffiths, S. Bargmann, D. Reddy, Elastic behaviour at the nanoscale of innovative composites of nanoporous gold and polymer, Extreme Mech. Let. 17, 16-23, 2017.

[4] J. Wilmers, A.T. McBride, S. Bargmann, Interface Elasticity Effects in Polymer-Filled Nanoporous Metals, J. Mech. Phys. Solids 99, 163-177, 2017.

[5] J. Wilmers, S. Bargmann, Functionalisation of Metal-Polymer-Nanocomposites: Chemo-electromechanical Coupling and Charge Carrier Transport, Extreme Mech. Lett. 21, 57-64, 2018.

[6] E. Griffiths, J. Wilmers, S. Bargmann, B. Daya Reddy, Nanoporous metal based composites: giving polymers strength and making metals move, J. Mech. Phys. Solids 137, 2019.


Jana Wilmers
University of Wuppertal
Additional Authors:
  • Emma Griffiths
    University of Cape Town
  • Dr. Celal Soyarslan
    University of Wuppertal
  • Prof. Dr. Swantje Bargmann
    University of Wuppertal