American Chemical Society
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Tuning the Piezoresistive Behavior of Poly(Vinylidene Fluoride)/Carbon Nanotube Composites Using Poly(Methyl Methacrylate)

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-09-08, 16:12 authored by Xinlei Tang, Petra Pötschke, Jürgen Pionteck, Yilong Li, Petr Formanek, Brigitte Voit
In conductive polymer composites (CPCs), which can be used as both strain sensors and materials with self-diagnosis capabilities for structural health monitoring, the piezoresistive sensitivity can be tuned by changing the electrical filler network structure, mainly influenced by the conductive filler content. Typically, the electrical resistance increases exponentially with strain, and the piezoresistive sensitivity and linearity cannot be improved simultaneously. In this work, we report a facile method to tune the piezoresistive behavior of melt-mixed poly­(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF)/carbon nanotube (CNT, 0.75–2.0 wt %) composites using blending with poly­(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA, 5–30 wt %). PVDF and PMMA are completely miscible in the melt state regardless of the proportion. For PVDF-rich blends, the crystallization of PVDF induces separation of the PVDF crystal region from the miscible PVDF/PMMA amorphous blend part during the cooling process. Addition of PMMA tuned the piezoresistive strain behavior and improved the electrical conductivity and toughness at the same time. The PVDF/PMMA/CNT composites show higher sensitivity at low strains than their PVDF/CNT counterparts with comparable initial resistivity. For example, ΔR/R0 at 5% strain is 18.6% for the PVDF(80)/PMMA(20) blend containing 0.75 wt % CNT versus 11.0% for PVDF containing 1 wt % CNT, both having a volume resistivity of around 104 Ω·cm. The PVDF/PMMA/CNT blend composites also show a less steep exponential increase in the sensing response at higher strains, indicating better linearity. These differences are due to the altered microstructure of the composites and the more homogeneous distribution of CNTs between the smaller and less numerous PVDF crystallites when PMMA is added. The concept of modifying the composite microstructure by adding another commercially available miscible polymer offers a simple and effective way to tune the piezoresistive behavior and improve mechanical properties of CPC sensor materials.