In this study, a novel electro-active artificial muscle was developed with UV irradiation-crosslinked sulfonated poly(styrene-ran-ethylene) (XSPSE). The XSPSE ionic exchangeable membrane was crosslinked with vinyl silane by UV irradiation. The crosslinking mechanism between the SPSE backbone and vinyl silane was analyzed and checked by FT-IR spectra. AFM images showed that XSPSE membranes have better micro-phase separation morphology than pure SPSE membranes. Water uptake, ion exchange capacity, and sulfonation degree were characterized for both pure SPSE and silane crosslinked SPSE membranes. The electro-active bending responses of the XSPSE actuators under both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) excitations were investigated. The voltage current behaviors of the actuators under AC excitations were also measured. Present results showed that the UV irradiation crosslinking method can greatly improve the actuation performance of SPSE artificial muscle. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.