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Bidirectional and Stretchable Piezoresistive Sensors Enabled by Multimaterial 3D Printing of Carbon Nanotube/Thermoplastic Polyurethane Nanocomposites

1
Advanced Composites Laboratory, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University, 2710 Crimson Way, Richland, WA 99354, USA
2
Department of Functional Nanocomposites and Blends, Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden, Hohe Straße 6, Dresden D-01069, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Polymers 2019, 11(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym11010011
Received: 27 November 2018 / Revised: 19 December 2018 / Accepted: 19 December 2018 / Published: 21 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymer-CNT Nanocomposites)
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Abstract

Fabricating complex sensor platforms is still a challenge because conventional sensors are discrete, directional, and often not integrated within the system at the material level. Here, we report a facile method to fabricate bidirectional strain sensors through the integration of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) and multimaterial additive manufacturing. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)/MWCNT filaments were first made using a two-step extrusion process. TPU as the platform and TPU/MWCNT as the conducting traces were then 3D printed in tandem using multimaterial fused filament fabrication to generate uniaxial and biaxial sensors with several conductive pattern designs. The sensors were subjected to a series of cyclic strain loads. The results revealed excellent piezoresistive responses with cyclic repeatability in both the axial and transverse directions and in response to strains as high as 50%. It was shown that the directional sensitivity could be tailored by the type of pattern design. A wearable glove, with built-in sensors, capable of measuring finger flexure was also successfully demonstrated where the sensors are an integral part of the system. These sensors have potential applications in wearable electronics, soft robotics, and prosthetics, where complex design, multi-directionality, embedding, and customizability are demanded. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon nanotubes; functional nanocomposites; additive manufacturing; 3D printing; fused filament fabrication; strain sensing; piezoresistivity carbon nanotubes; functional nanocomposites; additive manufacturing; 3D printing; fused filament fabrication; strain sensing; piezoresistivity
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Christ, J.F.; Aliheidari, N.; Pötschke, P.; Ameli, A. Bidirectional and Stretchable Piezoresistive Sensors Enabled by Multimaterial 3D Printing of Carbon Nanotube/Thermoplastic Polyurethane Nanocomposites. Polymers 2019, 11, 11.

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