Electroactive polymers (EAP) are an emerging class of actuation materials. Their large electrically induced strains (longitudinal or bending), low density, mechanical flexibility, and ease of processing offer advantages over traditional electroactive materials. However, before the benefits of these materials can be exploited, their electrical and mechanical behavior must be properly quantified. Two general types of EAP can be identified. The first class is ionic EAP, which requires relatively low voltages (<10V) to achieve large bending deflections. This class usually needs to be hydrated and electrochemical reactions may occur. The second class is Electronic-EAP and it involves piezoelectric, electrostrictive and/or Maxwell stresses. These materials can require large electric fields (>100MV/m) to achieve longitudinal deformations at the range from 4 - 360%. Some of the difficulties in characterizing EAP include: nonlinear properties, large compliance (large mismatch with metal electrodes), non-homogeneity (resulting from processing) and hysteresis. To support the need for reliable data, the authors are developing characterization techniques to quantify the electroactive responses and material properties of EAP materials. The emphasis of the current study is on addressing electromechanical issues related to the ion-exchange type EAP also known as IPMC. The analysis, experiments and test results are discussed in this paper.© (2001) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.