Clever Corona Discharge Technique Prints Flexible, Wearable E-Skin Sensors in Under a Second
A team from the Universities of California at San Diego and South Florida and the California Polytechnic State University have developed a manufacturing technique, which they say could lead to low-cost printed soft electronics for wearable sensor devices and more.
"As a new, advanced manufacturing strategy, Corona-Enabled Electrostatic Printing will potentially transform the cost structure for large-area and high-performance electronics and enable versatile applications of flexible, functional systems," claims Ying Zhong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at USF and co-author of the paper. "The technique can help contribute to maintaining the US' leadership in advanced manufacturing."
The CEP manufacturing system allows for electronic skin to be quickly printed without the need to use polymer binders, as with rival techniques. Instead, a corona discharge creates a strong electric field between binder-free powders including graphene and a flexible non-conductive material like medical tape. The process takes under a second — where manufacturing with polymer binders can take up to 20 minutes.
The resulting electronic skin can be used in a variety of ways, sensing strain, temperature, sound, and more - and offers high flexibility, making it ideal for wearable devices and soft robotics systems. Better still, the new approach doesn't seem to harm the quality of the material.
"CEP-printed graphene e-skins were demonstrated to possess an outstanding strain sensing performance," the team writes in the paper. "The binder-free feature of the CEP-assembled networks enables them to provide pressure sensitivity as low as 2.5 Pa and capability to detect acoustic signals of hundreds of hertz in frequency."
The team's work has been published under closed-access terms in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.