Development and characterization of silicone embedded distributed piezoelectric sensors for contact detection
Tactile sensing transfers complex interactive information in a most intuitive sense. Such a populated set of data from the environment and human interactions necessitates various degrees of information from both modular and distributed areas. A sensor design that could provide such types of feedback becomes challenging when the target component has a nonuniform, agile, high resolution, and soft surface. This paper presents an innovative methodology for the manufacture of novel soft sensors that have a high resolution sensing array due to the sensitivity of ceramic piezoelectric (PZT) elements, while uncommonly matched with the high stretchability of the soft substrate and electrode design. Further, they have a low profile and their transfer function is easy to tune by changing the material and thickness of the soft substrate in which the PZTs are embedded. In this manuscript, we present experimental results of the soft sensor prototypes: PZTs arranged in a four by two array form, measuring 1.5–2.3 mm in thickness, with the sensitivity in the range of 0.07–0.12 of the normalized signal change per unit force. We have conducted extensive tests under dynamic loading conditions that include impact, step and cyclic. The presented prototype's mechanical and functional capacities are promising for applications in biomedical systems where soft, wearable and high precision sensors are needed.