Fabrication of highly pressure-sensitive, hydrophobic, and flexible 3D carbon nanofiber networks by electrospinning for human physiological signal monitoring
Three-dimensional (3D) porous nanostructure materials have promising applications in pressure sensors or other situations. However, the low sensing sensitivity of these materials restricts precise detection of physiological signals, and it is still a challenge to manufacture highly pressure-sensitive materials, which simultaneously possess other versatile properties. Herein, a simple and cost-efficient strategy is proposed to fabricate versatile 3D carbon nanofiber networks (CNFNs) with superior pressure-sensitivity through electrospinning and thermal treatment. The pressure sensitivity of the CNFNs is 1.41 kPa−1, which is much higher than that of similar 3D porous materials. Unlike traditional carbonaceous materials, the CNFNs exhibit excellent flexibility, stable resilience, and super compressibility (>95%), because of the nano-reinforce of Al2O3. Benefiting from the robust mechanical and piezoresistive properties of the CNFNs, a pressure sensor designed with the CNFNs is able to monitor human physiological signals, such as phonation, pulse, respiration and human activities. An arch-array platform for direction identification of tangential forces and an artificial electronic skin bioinspired by human's hairy skin have been ingeniously designed. The CNFNs also present other versatile characteristics as well, including ultralight density, hydrophobicity, low thermal conductivity, and low infrared emissivity. Therefore, the CNFNs have promising potential in a wide range of applications.