Biofriendly, Stretchable, and Reusable Hydrogel Electronics as Wearable Force Sensors

Hao Liu, Moxiao Li, Cheng Ouyang, Tian Jian Lu, Fei Li, Feng Xu
Small 2018, 14 (36): e1801711
The ever-growing overlap between stretchable electronic devices and wearable healthcare applications is igniting the discovery of novel biocompatible and skin-like materials for human-friendly stretchable electronics fabrication. Amongst all potential candidates, hydrogels with excellent biocompatibility and mechanical features close to human tissues are constituting a promising troop for realizing healthcare-oriented electronic functionalities. In this work, based on biocompatible and stretchable hydrogels, a simple paradigm to prototype stretchable electronics with an embedded three-dimensional (3D) helical conductive layout is proposed. Thanks to the 3D helical structure, the hydrogel electronics present satisfactory mechanical and electrical robustness under stretch. In addition, reusability of stretchable electronics is realized with the proposed scenario benefiting from the swelling property of hydrogel. Although losing water would induce structure shrinkage of the hydrogel network and further undermine the function of hydrogel in various applications, the worn-out hydrogel electronics can be reused by simply casting it in water. Through such a rehydration procedure, the dehydrated hydrogel can absorb water from the surrounding and then the hydrogel electronics can achieve resilience in mechanical stretchability and electronic functionality. Also, the ability to reflect pressure and strain changes has revealed the hydrogel electronics to be promising for advanced wearable sensing applications.

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