Soft gold nanowire sponge antenna for battery-free wireless pressure sensors†
The past decade has witnessed growing interest in developing soft wearable pressure sensors with the ultimate goal of transforming today's hospital-centered diagnosis to tomorrow's patient-centered bio-diagnosis. In this context, battery-free wireless antenna-based pressure sensors will be highly advantageous for ubiquitous real-time health monitoring. However, current wireless antennas are largely based on thin films from traditional bulk metallic films or novel nanomaterials with an air-cavity design, which can only be operated in a limited pressure range due to the rigidity of active films and/or inherent cavity dimensions. Herein we report a soft battery-free wireless pressure sensor that is based on a three-dimensional (3D) porous gold nanowire foam–elastomer composite and is fabricated by solution-based conformal electroless plating technology, followed by elastomer encapsulation. We observe a transducer trade-off point for our foam antenna, below which the inductive effect and capacitive effect function together and above which the capacitive effect dominates. When an external pressure is applied, initially the inductance and capacitance increase simultaneously but the capacitance decreases afterwards. This can be transformed into a variable resonant frequency that first decreases linearly and then increases (in the capacitance domination pressure range). Importantly, the linear detection range of the sensor can be tuned simply by adjusting the thickness of the sponge or the rigidity of the elastomer (PDMS). We can achieve a wide pressure range of 0–248 kPa, which is the largest linear detection range reported in the literature (typically from 0 to 30 kPa) to the best of our knowledge. As a proof of concept, we further demonstrated that our gold nanowire foam sensor can be used to weigh people under both static and dynamic conditions.