Lightweight conductive graphene/thermoplastic polyurethane foams with ultrahigh compressibility for piezoresistive sensing
Lightweight conductive porous graphene/thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) foams with ultrahigh compressibility were successfully fabricated by using the thermal induced phase separation (TISP) technique. The density and porosity of the foams were calculated to be about 0.11 g cm−3 and 90% owing to the porous structure. Compared with pure TPU foams, the addition of graphene could effectively increase the thickness of the cell wall and hinder the formation of small holes, leading to a robust porous structure with excellent compression property. Meanwhile, the cell walls with small holes and a dendritic structure were observed due to the flexibility of graphene, endowing the foam with special positive piezoresistive behaviors and peculiar response patterns with a deflection point during the cyclic compression. This could effectively enhance the identifiability of external compression strain when used as piezoresistive sensors. In addition, larger compression sensitivity was achieved at a higher compression rate. Due to high porosity and good elasticity of TPU, the conductive foams demonstrated good compressibility and stable piezoresistive sensing signals at a strain of up to 90%. During the cyclic piezoresistive sensing test under different compression strains, the conductive foam exhibited good recoverability and reproducibility after the stabilization of cyclic loading. All these suggest that the fabricated conductive foam possesses great potential to be used as lightweight, flexible, highly sensitive, and stable piezoresistive sensors.