Polymers, Vol. 15, Pages 2410: Soft Wearable Piezoresistive Sensors Based on Natural Rubber Fabricated with a Customized Vat-Based Additive Manufacturing Process

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Polymers, Vol. 15, Pages 2410: Soft Wearable Piezoresistive Sensors Based on Natural Rubber Fabricated with a Customized Vat-Based Additive Manufacturing Process

Polymers doi: 10.3390/polym15102410

Authors:
Antonia Georgopoulou
Sasitorn Srisawadi
Panithi Wiroonpochit
Frank Clemens

Piezoresistive sensors for monitoring human motions are essential for the prevention and treatment of injury. Natural rubber is a material of renewable origin that can be used for the development of soft wearable sensors. In this study, natural rubber was combined with acetylene black to develop a soft piezoresistive sensing composite for monitoring the motion of human joints. An additive manufacturing technique based on stereolithography was used, and it was seen that the sensors produced with the method could detect even small strains (<10%) successfully. With the same sensor composite fabricated by mold casting, it was not possible to detect low strains reliably. TEM microscopy revealed that the distribution of the filler was not homogeneous for the cast samples, suggesting a directionality of the conductive filler network. For the sensors fabricated through the stereolithography-based method, a homogeneous distribution could be achieved. Based on mechano-electrical characterization, it was seen that the samples produced with AM combined the ability to endure large elongations with a monotonic sensor response. Under dynamic conditions, the sensor response of the samples produced by 3D printing showed lower drift and lower signal relaxation. The piezoresistive sensors were examined for monitoring the motion of the human finger joints. By increasing the bending angle of the sensor, it was possible to increase the sensitivity of the response. With the renewable origin of natural rubber and manufacturing method, the featured sensors can expand the applicability of soft flexible electronics in biomedical applications and devices.

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