When it comes to wearable devices, smart watches, fitness trackers, smart glasses, and smart clothing are what come to the mind. These devices have two things in common: They need an external power source and all require exact manufacturing processes.
In a new development, an innovative hybrid printing method is created that combines multi-material extrusion printing and aerosol jet printing. This integrates functional as well as structural materials into a single streamlined printing platform.
The findings were published in Nano energy.
With the new hybrid printing process, the team of researchers demonstrated stretchable piezoelectric sensors that is conformable to the human skin. The sensors are integrated with tellurium nanowire piezoelectric materials, silicone films, and silver nanowire electrodes.
The printed devices then attached to a human wrist to accurately detect hand gestures, and attached to an individual’s neck to detect the individual’s heartbeat. External power source not used by either of the devices.
In fact, piezoelectric materials are some of the most compelling materials in the manufacture of sensors and wearable electronics. This is because they generate their own electrical energy from applied mechanical push instead of obtaining from a power source.
Nonetheless, printing of piezoelectric devices is challenging as this requires high electric fields for high sintering temperatures and poling. This adds up to the time and cost of the printing process and can impact the surrounding materials during sensor integration.
Meanwhile, the ability to integrate a wide range of structural and functional materials in one platform is one of the key advantages of the new hybrid printing method.
This results into streamlining of the process and reduced time and energy to fabricate a device and at the same time ensure the performance of printed devices.