An Acrylonitrile–Butadiene–Lignin Renewable Skin with Programmable and Switchable Electrical Conductivity for Stress/Strain-Sensing Applications

We report an approach for programming electrical conductivity of a bio-based leathery skin devised with a layer of 60 nm metallic nanoparticles. Lignin-based renewable shape-memory materials were made, for the first time, to program and restore the materials’ electrical conductivity after repeated deformation up to 100% strain amplitude, at a temperature 60–115 °C above the glass transition temperature (Tg) of the rubbery matrix. We cross-linked lignin macromolecules with an acrylonitrile–butadiene rubbery melt in high quantities ranging from 40 to 60 wt % and processed the resulting thermoplastics into thin films. Chemical and physical networks within the polymeric materials significantly enhanced key characteristics such as mechanical stiffness, strain fixity, and temperature-stimulated recovery of shape. The branched structures of the guaiacylpropane-dominant softwood lignin significantly improve the rubber’s Tg and produced a film with stored and recoverable elastic work density that was an order of magnitude greater than those of the neat rubber and of samples made with syringylpropane-rich hardwood lignin. The devices could exhibit switching of conductivity before and after shape recovery.