Journal article

Multi-material micro-electromechanical fibers with bendable functional domains

The integration of increasingly complex functionalities within thermally drawn multi-material fibers is heralding a novel path towards advanced soft electronics and smart fabrics. Fibers capable of electronic, optoelectronic, piezoelectric or energy harvesting functions are created by assembling new materials in intimate contact within increasingly complex architectures. Thus far, however, the opportunities associated with the integration of cantilever-like structures with freely moving functional domains within multi-material fibers have not been explored. Used extensively in the micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) technology, electro-mechanical transductance from moving and bendable domains is used in a myriad of applications. In this article we demonstrate the thermal drawing of micro-electromechanical fibers (MEMF) that can detect and localize pressure with high accuracy along their entire length. This ability results from an original cantilever-like design where a freestanding electrically conductive polymer composite film bends under an applied pressure. As it comes into contact with another conducting domain, placed at a prescribed position in the fiber cross-section, an electrical signal is generated. We show that by a judicious choice of materials and electrical connectivity, this signal can be uniquely related to a position along the fiber axis. We establish a model that predicts the position of a local touch from the measurement of currents generated in the 1D MEMF device, and demonstrate an excellent agreement with the experimental data. This ability to detect and localize touch over large areas, curved surfaces and textiles holds significant opportunities in robotics and prosthetics, flexible electronic interfaces, and medical textiles.


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