Printed conducting polymer strain sensors for textiles
We have used inkjet printing to deposit silver conducting lines and small PEDOT (conducting polymer) sensors onto fabrics. The printed conductors penetrate into the fabric and can be shown to coat the individual fibers within the yarn, through the full thickness of the cloth. The PEDOT sensor has a resistance in the region of a few kilo-ohms and is connected to measuring equipment by printed silver lines with a resistance of a few ohms. In this way, local strains can be measured at different sites on a fabric. The PEDOT responds to a tensile strain by a reduction in resistance with a gauge factor (change in resistance/strain) from -5 to -20. This compares with conventional strain gauges where the gauge factor is normally +2. These sensors cycle to strains of over 10%. We have measured gauge factors as a function of the orientation of the sensing line to the fabric axes, to the strain axes for different fabric structures. We can correlate the gauge factor with the extent to which the twisted multifilament yarns are expected to become laterally compressed. In preliminary tests we have shown that these printed sensors can be used to monitor knee and wrist motions and so could be used to provide information in applications such as rehabilitation from joint damage.