Stretchable heaters with composites of an intrinsically conductive polymer, reduced graphene oxide and an elastomer for wearable thermotherapy†
Thermal therapy is an effective physical treatment method for arthritis, stiff muscles, joint injuries, and injuries to the deep tissue of skin. Stretchable or even wearable electric heaters with uniform heating behavior are regarded as the next-generation electronic devices, which have been extensively studied for the personal thermal management and healthcare purpose. In this work, highly stretchable electrothermal heaters were developed by using composites of intrinsically conductive poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrene sulfonic acid) (PEDOT:PSS), elastomeric waterborne polyurethane (WPU) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO). rGO was mixed into the PEDOT:PSS/WPU blends to improve the temperature uniformity because rGO has high thermal conductivity while the polymers have very low thermal conductivity. The PEDOT:PSS/WPU/1 wt% rGO composite film exhibits an electrical conductivity of 18.2 S cm−1 and an elongation at break of 530%. The electrothermal performances of the polymer heaters were investigated with respect to the applied voltage, tensile strain, and the voltage on/off cycling process. The heater shows stable heating behavior under repetitive voltage on/off cycles, and the temperature remains almost unchanged under a tensile strain of up to 30%. The devices can be comfortably attached to the skin of humans, for example on the wrist, and they exhibit a uniform and stable heating profile even under mechanical disturbance. Due to their outstanding stretchability, biocompatibility, desirable electrical and thermal conductivities, the WPU/PEDOT:PSS/rGO composites can be used in wearable and long-term thermotherapy applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Open Access Articles