Highly stretchable, weavable, and washable piezoresistive microfiber sensors (ACS App. Mater. Interfaces, Mar 2018)
Highly stretchable, weavable, and washable piezoresistive microfiber sensors
A key challenge in electronic textiles is to develop an intrinsically conductive thread of sufficient robustness and sensitivity. Here, we demonstrate an elastomeric functionalized microfiber sensor suitable for smart textile and wearable electronics. Unlike conventional conductive threads, our microfiber is highly flexible and stretchable up to 120% strain and possesses excellent piezoresistive characteristics. The microfiber is functionalized by enclosing a conductive liquid metallic alloy within the elastomeric microtube. This embodiment allows shape reconfigurability and robustness, while maintaining an excellent electrical conductivity of 3.27 ± 0.08 MS/m. By producing microfibers the size of cotton threads (160 μm in diameter), a plurality of stretchable tubular elastic piezoresistive microfibers may be woven seamlessly into a fabric to determine the force location and directionality. As a proof of concept, the conductive microfibers woven into a fabric glove were used to obtain physiological measurements from the wrist, elbow pit, and less accessible body parts, such as the neck and foot instep. Importantly, the elastomeric layer protects the sensing element from degradation. Experiments showed that our microfibers suffered minimal electrical drift even after repeated stretching and machine washing. These advantages highlight the unique propositions of our wearable electronics for flexible display, electronic textile, soft robotics, and consumer healthcare applications.
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