There is increasing interest in creating bendable and stretchable electronic interfaces that can be worn or applied to virtually any surface. The electroactive polymer community is well placed to add value by incorporating sensors and actuators. Recent work has demonstrated transparent dielectric elastomer actuation as well as pressure, stretch or touch sensing. Here we present two alternative forms of sensing. The first uses ionically conductive and stretchable gels as electrodes in capacitive sensors that detect finger proximity. In this case the finger acts as a third electrode, reducing capacitance between the two gel electrodes as it approaches, which can be detected even during bending and stretching. Very light finger touch is readily detected even during deformation of the substrate. Lateral resolution is achieved by creating a sensor array. In the second approach, electrodes placed beneath a salt containing gel are able to detect ion currents generated by the deformation of the gel. In this approach, applied pressure results in ion currents that create a potential difference around the point of contact, leading to a voltage and current in the electrodes without any need for input electrical energy. The mechanism may be related to effects seen in ionomeric polymer metal composites (IPMCs), but with the response in plane rather than through the thickness of the film. Ultimately, these ionically conductive materials that can also be transparent and actuate, have the potential to be used in wearable devices.
John D. W. Madden, Yuta Dobashi, Mirza S. Sarwar, Eden C. Preston, Justin K. M. Wyss, Vincent Woehling, Tran-Minh-Giao Nguyen, Cedric Plesse, Frédéric Vidal, Sina Naficy, and Geoffrey M. Spinks, "Proximity and touch sensing using deformable ionic conductors (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 1016305 (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 26, 2017; Published: 10 May 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2260478.5427096922001.
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