Nanostructured electrically conductive hydrogels obtained via ultrafast laser processing and self-assembly
Electrically conductive polymers have emerged as functional materials for future electronics due to their high electrical conductivity, real-time responsiveness, easy film-formation ability and desirable stretchability. However, the previously developed conductive polymer electronics are still limited to macroscopic hydrogels or films without complicated designs of fine features. Herein, a carbon nanotube-doped hydrophilic photoresist was ultrafast laser processed as an absorbent 3D scaffold to fabricate nanostructured electrically conductive hydrogels (NECHs) for the first time. Taking advantage of the intermolecular forces, we in situ interpenetrated π-conjugated poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) into NECHs by self-assembly to combine fine features (resolution down to 500 nm, at least two-order accuracy improvement than that in the case of standard 3D-printed electronics) and achieve a high electrical conductivity (0.1–42.5 S m−1), device-level mechanical properties and desirable tolerance to humid/acid environments. Consequently, several reliable, nanostructured, metal-free electrical circuits, alcohol micro-sensors, interdigital capacitors, and loop inductors have been experimentally identified and characterized. The NECHs successfully break current limitations by making better use of the two photon hydrogelation and highly conductive polymer. Optical clarity, conductivity, and extensibility of the NECHs promise their applications in micro energy storage devices, epidermal electronics, nanorobotics and electrical circuit boards for challenging conditions.