Sensor designs found in nature are optimal due to their evolution over millions of years, making them well-suited for sensing applications. However, replicating these complex, three-dimensional (3D), biomimetic designs in artificial and flexible sensors using conventional techniques such as lithography is challenging. In this paper, we introduce a new processing paradigm for the simplified fabrication of flexible sensors featuring complex and bioinspired structures. The proposed fabrication workflow entailed 3D-printing a metallic mold with complex and intricate 3D features such as a micropillar and a microchannel, casting polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) inside the mold to obtain the desired structure, and drop-casting piezoresistive graphene nanoplatelets into the predesigned microchannel to form a flexible strain gauge. The graphene-on-PDMS strain gauge showed a high gauge factor of 37 as measured via cyclical tension-compression tests. The processing workflow was used to fabricate a flow sensor inspired by hair-like ‘cilia’ sensors found in nature, which comprised a cilia-inspired pillar and a cantilever with a microchannel that housed the graphene strain gauge. The sensor showed good sensitivity against both tactile and water flow stimuli, with detection thresholds as low as 12 µm in the former and 58 mm/s in the latter, demonstrating the feasibility of our method in developing flexible flow sensors.
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