Quantifying the deformation of biological tissues under mechanical loading is crucial to understand its biomechanical response in physiological conditions and important for designing materials and treatments for biomedical applications. However, strain measurements for biological tissues subjected to large deformations and humid environments are challenging for conventional methods due to several limitations such as strain range, boundary conditions, surface bonding and biocompatibility. Here we propose the use of silk solutions and printing to synthesize prototype strain gauges for large strain measurements in biological tissues. The study shows that silk-based strain gauges can be stretched up to 1300% without failure, which is more than two orders of magnitude larger than conventional strain gauges, and the mechanics can be tuned by adjusting ion content. We demonstrate that the printing approach can accurately provide well bonded fluorescent features on the silk membranes using designs which can accurately measure strain in the membrane. The results show that these new strain gauges measure large deformations in the materials by eliminating the effects of sliding from the boundaries, making the measurements more accurate than direct outputs from tensile machines.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 3D Printing