Issue 40, 2022

Stretchable reflective coating for soft optical waveguides and sensors


Soft robots must embody mechanosensing capabilities to merge with and act in the environment. Stretchable waveguides are making a mark in soft mechanical sensing since they are built from pristine elastomers. Therefore, they are insensitive to electromagnetic fields and weakly affect the deformations of the robot. However, issues in light-shielding, signal decoupling, and core-cladding interfaces are still open challenges. In this work, titanium oxide particles (TiO2) are dispersed in silicone elastomers to develop a soft optical shield coating. Results show that the added particles do not harden the matrix and reduce light transmission. Almost full NIR shielding is achieved by adding 1.0 vol% of TiO2 in 150 μm thick films. These properties make the proposed shielding coating an excellent candidate for soft mechanosensing. An open-access tool is developed to design soft optical devices by programming light transmittance at desired wavelengths by tuning, both, TiO2 concentration and film thickness. Finally, two proof-of-concepts are demonstrated, a soft waveguide and a soft strain sensor, by integrating the developed material to shield a transparent PDMS resin and a semi-transparent Ecoflex00-10 matrix, respectively. The soft waveguide can stretch up to 40% with very low optical loss, while the optical strain sensor can detect strain up to 90%. In both cases, bending, folding, and indentation of the devices have a significantly low impact on light transmission. These results can pave the way to design new optical transmission devices and sensors that exploit light reflection and that allow for discriminating different types of mechanical stimuli in soft robots.

Graphical abstract: Stretchable reflective coating for soft optical waveguides and sensors

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Article information

Article type
29 Jun 2022
17 Sep 2022
First published
20 Sep 2022
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Soft Matter, 2022,18, 7827-7837

Stretchable reflective coating for soft optical waveguides and sensors

S. Lantean, M. Lo Preti and L. Beccai, Soft Matter, 2022, 18, 7827 DOI: 10.1039/D2SM00869F

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