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Carbon Nanocomposite Coated Textile-Based Sensor: Sensing Mechanism and Durability



Carbon nanotube (CNT) composite films are deposited onto stretchable knit fabrics using electrophoretic deposition (EPD) and dip-coating techniques, which are industrially scalable processes for producing future wearable sensors. The deposited CNTs create an electrically conductive nanocomposite film on the surface of the fibers. These nanocomposite coated fabrics exhibit piezoresistive properties; under mechanical deformation/stretching, a large change in the electrical resistance is observed. Polyethyleneimine (PEI) functionalized carbon nanotubes deposited using EPD create a uniform, extremely thin porous coating on the fiber. Initial results show ultrahigh sensitivity of the carbon nanotube coated fabric when tested on elbow/knee to detect range of motion. The sensitivity of these sensors is exceptionally high when compared to a typical carbon nanotube-based polymer nanocomposite. The nanocomposite coating does not affect fabric's breathability or flexibility, making the sensor comfortable to wear. Because of these unique properties, tremendous potential exists for their use in functional/smart garments. Changes in electrical resistance for these fabrics are influenced by a combination of electron tunneling between the carbon nanotubes and the microstructure of the fabric. To investigate and characterize the unique sensing mechanism, the nanotube coated knit fabric's electromechanical response is studied at different length scales, from individual yarns to fabric levels. For applications in wearable sensors, the durability of the nanotube coating on the fabric is critical for repeatable and reliable sensing response. Durability testing of the sensing fabric for washing loads was conducted to study the nanotube coating's robustness. CNT coating's adhesion quality is evaluated based on the weight loss in the specimen and loss in electrical conductivity in each wash cycle. This research addresses the potential of these sensors for functional/smart garments by examining the underlying mechanism of the sensor response and the durability of the carbon nanotube coating.


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