Self-Healing, Highly Sensitive Electronic Sensors Enabled by Metal–Ligand Coordination and Hierarchical Structure Design

Electronic sensors capable of capturing mechanical deformation are highly desirable for the next generation of artificial intelligence products. However, it remains a challenge to prepare self-healing, highly sensitive, and cost-efficient sensors for both tiny and large human motion monitoring. Here, a new kind of self-healing, sensitive, and versatile strain sensors has been developed by combining metal–ligand chemistry with hierarchical structure design. Specifically, a self-healing and nanostructured conductive layer is deposited onto a self-healing elastomer substrate cross-linked by metal–ligand coordinate bonds, forming a hierarchically structured sensor. The resultant sensors exhibit high sensitivity, low detection limit (0.05% strain), remarkable self-healing capability, as well as excellent reproducibility. Notably, the self-healed sensors are still capable to precisely capture not only tiny physiological activities (such as speech, swallowing, and coughing) but also large human motions (finger and neck bending, touching). Moreover, harsh treatments, including bending over 50000 times and mechanical washing, could not influence the sensitivity and stability of the self-healed sensors in human motion monitoring. This proposed strategy via alliance of metal–ligand chemistry and hierarchical structure design represents a general approach to manufacturing self-healing, robust sensors, and other electronic devices.