Novel Electrically Conductive Porous PDMS/Carbon Nanofiber Composites for Deformable Strain Sensors and Conductors.ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2017 Apr 26; 9(16):14207-14215.AA
Highly flexible and deformable electrically conductive materials are vital for the emerging field of wearable electronics. To address the challenge of flexible materials with a relatively high electrical conductivity and a high elastic limit, we report a new and facile method to prepare porous polydimethylsiloxane/carbon nanofiber composites (denoted by p-PDMS/CNF). This method involves using sugar particles coated with carbon nanofibers (CNFs) as the templates. The resulting three-dimensional porous nanocomposites, with the CNFs embedded in the PDMS pore walls, exhibit a greatly increased failure strain (up to ∼94%) compared to that of the solid, neat PDMS (∼48%). The piezoresistive response observed under cyclic tension indicates that the unique microstructure provides the new nanocomposites with excellent durability. The electrical conductivity and the gauge factor of this new nanocomposite can be tuned by changing the content of the CNFs. The electrical conductivity increases, while the gauge factor decreases, upon increasing the content of CNFs. The gauge factor of the newly developed sensors can be adjusted from approximately 1.0 to 6.5, and the nanocomposites show stable piezoresistive performance with fast response time and good linearity in ln(R/R0) versus ln(L/L0) up to ∼70% strain. The tunable sensitivity and conductivity endow these highly stretchable nanocomposites with considerable potential for use as flexible strain sensors for monitoring the movement of human joints (where a relatively high gauge factor is needed) and also as flexible conductors for wearable electronics (where a relatively low gauge factor is required).