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Highly Sensitive and Very Stretchable Strain Sensor Based on a Rubbery Semiconductor

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journal contribution
posted on 15.01.2018, 00:00 by Hae-Jin Kim, Anish Thukral, Cunjiang Yu
There is a growing interest in developing stretchable strain sensors to quantify the large mechanical deformation and strain associated with the activities for a wide range of species, such as humans, machines, and robots. Here, we report a novel stretchable strain sensor entirely in a rubber format by using a solution-processed rubbery semiconductor as the sensing material to achieve high sensitivity, large mechanical strain tolerance, and hysteresis-less and highly linear responses. Specifically, the rubbery semiconductor exploits π–π stacked poly­(3-hexylthiophene-2,5-diyl) nanofibrils (P3HT-NFs) percolated in silicone elastomer of poly­(dimethylsiloxane) to yield semiconducting nanocomposite with a large mechanical stretchability, although P3HT is a well-known nonstretchable semiconductor. The fabricated strain sensors exhibit reliable and reversible sensing capability, high gauge factor (gauge factor = 32), high linearity (R2 > 0.996), and low hysteresis (degree of hysteresis <12%) responses at the mechanical strain of up to 100%. A strain sensor in this format can be scalably manufactured and implemented as wearable smart gloves. Systematic investigations in the materials design and synthesis, sensor fabrication and characterization, and mechanical analysis reveal the key fundamental and application aspects of the highly sensitive and very stretchable strain sensors entirely from rubbers.