American Chemical Society
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3D Printing of Highly Sensitive and Large-Measurement-Range Flexible Pressure Sensors with a Positive Piezoresistive Effect

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-06-10, 15:43 authored by Zhenhua Tang, Shuhai Jia, Chenghao Zhou, Bo Li
Piezoresistive composite-based flexible pressure sensors often suffer from a trade-off between the sensitivity and measurement range. Moreover, the sensitivity or measurement range is theoretically limited owing to the negative piezoresistive coefficient, resulting in resistance variation below 100%. Here, flexible pressure sensors were fabricated using the three-dimensional (3D) printing technique to improve both the sensitivity and sensing range through the positive piezoresistive effect. With the addition of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and fumed silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) as a conductive filler and rheology modifier, respectively, the viscoelastic silicone rubber solution converted to a printable gel ink. Soft and porous composites (SPCs) were then directly printed in air at room temperature. The sensitivity and sensing range of the SPC-based pressure sensor can be simultaneously tuned by adjusting the conducting CNT and insulating SiNP contents. By optimizing the density of the CNT conductive network in the matrix, positive piezoresistive sensitivity (+0.096 kPa–1) and a large linear sensing range (0–175 kPa) were obtained. To demonstrate potential applications, the completely soft SPC-based sensor was successfully used in grasp sensing and gait monitoring systems. The 3D printed sensors were also assembled as a smart artificial sensory array to map the pressure distribution.