(19)
(11)EP 3 052 553 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 14716768.8

(22)Date of filing:  14.03.2014
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C08J 3/21(2006.01)
C08J 3/215(2006.01)
A61B 5/02(2006.01)
G01L 1/00(2006.01)
B82Y 30/00(2011.01)
C08K 3/00(2018.01)
A61B 5/08(2006.01)
G01L 5/00(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2014/055184
(87)International publication number:
WO 2015/049067 (09.04.2015 Gazette  2015/14)

(54)

SENSITIVE, HIGH-STRAIN, HIGH-RATE, BODILY MOTION SENSORS BASED ON CONDUCTIVE NANO-MATERIAL-RUBBER COMPOSITES

EMPFINDLICHE, HOCHRATIGE KÖRPERBEWEGUNGSSENSOREN MIT HOHER BELASTUNG AUF DER BASIS VON LEITFÄHIGEN NANOMATERIAL-KAUTSCHUK-VERBUNDSTOFFEN

CAPTEURS DE MOUVEMENT CORPOREL SENSIBLES, À HAUTE SOLLICITATION, HAUT RENDEMENT, FAITS DE COMPOSITES CONDUCTEURS À BASE DE NANOMATÉRIAU/CAOUTCHOUC


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 02.10.2013 US 201361885927 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
10.08.2016 Bulletin 2016/32

(73)Proprietor: The Provost, Fellows, Scholars and other Members of Board of Trinity College Dublin
Dublin D2 (IE)

(72)Inventors:
  • COLEMAN, Jonathan
    Dublin 2 (IE)
  • BOLAND, Conor
    Dublin 2 (IE)
  • KHAN, Umar
    Dublin 2 (IE)

(74)Representative: Purdylucey Intellectual Property 
6-7 Harcourt Terrace
D02 FH73 Dublin 2
D02 FH73 Dublin 2 (IE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 2 818 501
WO-A1-2013/076296
GB-A- 929 152
US-A1- 2009 200 517
US-A1- 2013 149 772
WO-A1-2007/010517
GB-A- 701 156
US-A1- 2006 292 033
US-A1- 2012 266 685
  
  • PETER MAY ET AL: "Approaching the theoretical limit for reinforcing polymers with graphene", JOURNAL OF MATERIALS CHEMISTRY, vol. 22, no. 4, 1 January 2012 (2012-01-01), page 1278, XP055127068, ISSN: 0959-9428, DOI: 10.1039/c1jm15467b
  • YUJIE DING ET AL: "Conductivity Trends of PEDOT-PSS Impregnated Fabric and the Effect of Conductivity on Electrochromic Textile", ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, vol. 2, no. 6, 23 June 2010 (2010-06-23), pages 1588-1593, XP055127083, ISSN: 1944-8244, DOI: 10.1021/am100036n
  • JOSE K. ABRAHAM ET AL: "<title>Carbon nanotube strain sensors for wearable patient monitoring applications</title>", PROCEEDINGS OF SPIE, vol. 6931, 27 March 2008 (2008-03-27), pages 69310J-69310J-6, XP055127284, ISSN: 0277-786X, DOI: 10.1117/12.776181
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

Field of the Invention



[0001] The invention relates to the field of sensors such as biosensors. More particularly, the invention relates to the integration of electronics with biological or other soft, stretchable, flexible systems for use as sensors.

Background to the Invention



[0002] The past decade has seen a growing body of research devoted to the integration of electronics with biological or other soft, stretchable, flexible systems. This field is broad, ranging from wearable bio-sensors to ultra-light, foldable plastic electronics. An important sub-field involves the development of devices or sensors to be mounted on or near the skin. Clearly, because of the soft, compliant nature of tissue and the natural bending or rotational motion associated with joints, many applications in this area will require the development of both structures and materials which can stretch, bend, fold, twist and generally deform in response to the motion of the wearer. Such behaviour is generally not compatible with traditional silicon based electronics. This has led to the development of various stretchable materials and structures which have been used to fabricate a range of other devices including transistors and sensors which can be integrated into clothing or worn on the skin.

[0003] A particularly important class of stretchable electronics encompasses wearable biosensors which can be fabricated to monitor a range of bio-signals including blood pressure, respiration rate and blood glucose levels. Particularly important are wearable strain and motion sensors. These can be used to monitor joint and muscle motion and can be used for sensing of posture, movement and even breathing. A number of applications have been suggested for such sensors: smart suits for babies, athletes or soldiers or in monitoring of patients which are elderly, suffer from chronic disease or are in rehabilitation.

[0004] Such strain and motion sensors usually work by sensing the change in resistance of a material in response to variations in its length. However, wearable strain sensors have a range of requirements that are not all fulfilled by standard strain sensing platforms. Such sensors need to be compliant so as not to limit the motion of the wearer; they need to be highly sensitive to detect small motions involved in processes such as breathing; they need to work at high strains to monitor large scale motion such as that associated with joints and finally, need to operate at high speeds/strain rates to follow fast voluntary and involuntary movement. In addition, it should be possible to produce the sensing material in various shapes, sizes and geometries, for example as fibres which could be woven into garments. It should also be cheap to produce to facilitate widespread availability. To the authors knowledge no material combines all these properties, severely limiting our ability to fabricate multifunctional wearable strain and motion sensors.

[0005] This is unfortunate as sensors made from such materials could sense not only strain but velocity, acceleration and force. Such capabilities would facilitate not only applications in human motion sensing but in a range of areas including monitoring of airbags and other inflatable devices, motion in robots or moving mechanical objects and vibration monitoring.

[0006] In order to develop materials which can perform this array of functions, many researchers have turned to materials science and specifically nanotechnology. Strain sensors have been demonstrated from a range of materials and structures including hydrogels, nano-papers, graphene woven fabrics, nanotube arrays and complex nano-engineered structures. Particularly promising have been the nano-composite strain gauges. To date, strain gauges prepared from polymer-nanoparticle composies, polymer nanotube composites, polymer-graphene composites and polymer-carbon black composites have demonstrated performance far superior than those observed for commercial metal stain gauges.

[0007] US 2015/26685 A1 describes sensors comprising a conductive composite of a polymer incorporating a conductive nanomaterial throughout the structure of the polymer. WO 2007/010517 describes a method for preparing a conductive composite comprising soaking Kevlar™ in NMP under sonication; soaking the Kevlar™ in a solution of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) dispersed in NMP under sonication, washing the CNT-incorporated Kevlar™ by sonicating in ethanol and isolating the reinforced Kevlar™. EP 2818501 A1, US 2009/200517 A1, and WO 2013/076296 describe processes for producing reinforced elastomer composites by soaking exfoliated 2-dimensional nanomaterial and an elastomer in a water-surfactant solution.

[0008] The simplest performance metric is the gauge factor, G, which describes how the relative resistance change depends on strain, ε: ΔR / R0 = Gε. This is usually measured at low strain and is typically ∼2 for metal strain gauges. However, some nano-composites have demonstrated values of G as high as 30. Some results have been extremely impressive. Networks of graphene on elastomeric substrates have demonstrated high gauge factor and good dynamic performance at strains up to 8%. By fabricating arrays of platinum coated polymer nanofibers, low-strain sensors for pressure, shear and torsion with good dynamic response up to 10 Hz have previously been fabricated. Arrays of carbon nanotubes have also been used to prepare high-strain sensors with very impressive dynamic response but relatively low gauge factor. However, no reports exist for strain sensors which combine low stiffness, high gauge factor, high-strain and fast dynamic motion sensing capabilities with the potential for simple, cheap fabrication.

[0009] It is an object of the subject application to overcome at least one of the above-mentioned problems.

Summary of the Invention



[0010] The present invention provides a very simple method to infiltrate store-bought elastic bands with liquid-exfoliated graphene or other conductive nano-materials to produce versatile strain sensors. The simple strain sensors of the present invention work very well at strains of up to 600%, both under quasi-static conditions or at dynamic strain rates of at least 7000 %/s. In addition, the sensors of the invention have been demonstrated to have impressive performances when used as kinesthetic motion sensors, detecting motions as subtle as those associated with breathing and pulse. The performance is consistent and repeatable over many cycles.

[0011] According to the invention, there is provided, as set out in the appended claims, a process for producing conductive composites, the process comprising the steps of:
  1. (a) soaking an elastomer in an organic solvent;
  2. (b) soaking the elastomer from step a) with a solution of a conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material dispersed in an organic solvent:water mixture, such that the conductive nano- material is incorporated into the elastomer structure;
  3. (c) washing the conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer in deionised water; and
  4. (d) drying the washed conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer to produce the conductive composite,
wherein the conductive composite incorporates the exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material throughout the structure of the elastomer without affecting the integrity of the properties of the elastomer.

[0012] In one aspect, energy is applied to steps (a), (b) and (c).

[0013] The term "nano-material" should be understood to mean any conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional material suitable for incorporation into a polymer.

[0014] In one aspect, the conductive nano-material is an exfoliated 2-dimensional material obtained from exfoliating any suitable 3-dimensional layered compound, for example graphite.

[0015] In one aspect, the conductive nano-material is an exfoliated 2-dimensional material obtained from exfoliating any suitable 3-dimensional layered compound, for example any transition metal dichalcogenide having the formula MXn, or any other layered material such as transition metal oxides, boron nitride (BN), Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, TiNCl, MoO3 or any other inorganic layered compound. When the 3-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenide has the formula MXn, M may be selected from the group comprising Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mn, Mo, W, Tc, Re, Ni, Pd, Pt, Fe, and Ru; X may be selected from the group comprising O, S, Se, and Te; and 1 ≤n ≤ 3, for example, VS2, NbSe2 or TaS2.

[0016] In one aspect, the conductive nano-material is the exfoliated 2-dimensional material graphene.

[0017] In one aspect, the exfoliated graphene used in the process of the present invention may be used for the mechanical reinforcement of polymers, to reduce the permeability of polymers, to enhance the conductivity (electrical and thermal) of polymers, and to produce conductors and electrode materials.

[0018] In one aspect, the process may further comprise the step of inserting the conductive exfoliated nano-material into a matrix to form a composite. The matrix can be a polymer or copolymer selected from the group comprising a thermoplastic, an elastomer or a biopolymer. Preferably, the polymer is an elastomer.

[0019] In one embodiment of the present invention, the elastomer may be selected from, but not limited to, the group comprising polybutadiene, butadiene and acrylonitrile copolymers (NBR), natural and synthetic rubber, polyesteramide, chloropene rubbers, poly(styrene-b-butadiene) copolymers, polysiloxanes (such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)), polyisoprene, polyurethane, polychloroprene, chlorinated polyethylene, polyester/ether urethane, polyurethane, poly ethylene propylene, chlorosulphanated polyethylene, polyalkylene oxide and mixtures thereof.

[0020] In one embodiment, the energy applied is sonication.

[0021] In one embodiment, the organic solvent in step (a) is selected from the group comprising toluene, cyclohexene, cycloheptane, ethyl-benzene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride.

[0022] In one embodiment, the organic solvent in the organic solvent:water mixture is selected from the group comprising N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), cyclohexylpyrrolidone, di-methyl formamide, cyclopentanone (CPO), cyclohexanone, N-formyl piperidine (NFP), vinyl pyrrolidone (NVP), 1,3-Dimethyl-2-imidazolidinone (DMEU), bromobenzene, benzonitrile, N-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP), benzyl benzoate, N,N'-Dimethylpropylene urea, (DMPU), gamma-butrylactone (GBL), dimethylformamide (DMF), N-ethyl-pyrrolidone (NEP), dimethylacetamide (DMA), cyclohexylpyrrolidone (CHP), DMSO, dibenzyl ether, chloroform, isopropylalcohol (IPA), cholobenzene, 1-octyl-2-pyrrolidone (N8P), 1-3 dioxolane, ethyl acetate, quinoline, benzaldehyde, ethanolamine, diethyl phthalate, N-dodecyl-2-pyrrolidone (N12P), pyridine, dimethyl phthalate, formamide, vinyl acetate, acetone.

[0023] In one embodiment, the organic solvent:water mixture is a ratio selected from 50:50, 40:60: 30:70, 20:80, or 10:90 (volume:volume).

[0024] In one aspect, in step (b) of the process described above, the polymer is soaked for about 1 hour to about 48 hours.

[0025] In one aspect, in step (c) of the process described above, the nano-material-incorporated polymer is washed for about 1 minute to about 60 minutes.

[0026] In one aspect, in step (d) of the process described above, the nano-material-incorporated polymer is dried in a vacuum oven for about 1 hour to about 24 hours to produce the conductive composite.

[0027] In one embodiment, the nano-material is graphene.

[0028] In a further embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a device comprising the composite produced by the process described above.

[0029] In one embodiment, the device may be selected from, but not limited to, the group comprising electrodes, electrodes, capacitors, transistors, solar cells, dye sensitised solar cells, light emitting diodes, thermoelectric devices, dielectrics, batteries, battery electrodes, capacitor, super capacitors, sensors, strain/motion sensors, nano-transistors, nano-capacitors, nano-light emitting diodes, and nano-solar cells.

[0030] In one embodiment, the device is a sensor.

[0031] In one aspect, there is provided a motion or a strain sensor comprising the conductive composite produced by the process described above.

[0032] In a further embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of monitoring or measuring a pulse in a subject, the method comprising the steps of:
  1. a) attaching a motion or strain sensor as described above to any one of a radial, ulnar, apical, temporal, carotid, brachial, femoral, popliteal or pedal pulse point of the subject; and
  2. b) monitoring the resistance produced in the sensor over time to monitor or measure the pulse in the subject.


[0033] In a further embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a method of monitoring breathing in a subject, the method comprising the steps of:
  1. (a) attaching a motion or strain sensor as described above to the rib cage of the subject; and
  2. (b) monitoring the resistance produced in the sensor over time to monitor the breathing in a subject.

Brief Description of the Drawings



[0034] The invention will be more clearly understood from the following description of an embodiment thereof, given by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:-

Figure 1 illustrates the preparation of graphene infused elastic bands (G-bands). A) As-bought elastic bands. B) Elastic band soaking in toluene. C) A section of an untreated rubber band. D) a band section after soaking in toluene for 3.5 hrs. E) A section of a graphene infused band after soaking in 20% NMP/water mixture for 4 hrs. F-I) Optical micrographs of the surface of an elastic band F) before treatment, G) after soaking in toluene, H) after transfer to NMP and I) after transfer to 20% NMP/water /graphene dispersion. J) Collage of micrographs showing graphene transferred from a treated elastic band fracture surface to a Si/SiO2 wafer. The position of the edge of the fracture surface is marked by the dashed line. The dark dots are graphene as confirmed by the Raman spectrum in K). L) Helium ion micrograph showing rubber-coated graphene flakes protruding from a band fracture surface. M) Measured graphene content (vol%) (after washing) as a function of soak time, ts.

Figure 2 illustrates the electrical properties of G-bands. A) Measured resistance at zero strain, R0, plotted versus graphene volume fraction. B) Conductivity and Young's modulus (inset) of bands plotted as a function of graphene volume fraction. The lines are fits to the percolation theory. The upper region (solid line) was consistent with a percolation threshold. φc=0.17% while the lower region (dashed line) was consistent with φc=0.0%, within error. In both cases, the percolation exponent was very close to 2.0. C) Measured resistance as a function of applied strain for bands for two different soak times. The dashed lines represent exponential behaviour. D) Plots of ΔR/R0 versus strain (log-log scale). The dashed lines show the linear region as defined by ΔR / R0 = Gε . E) Transverse strain (ie in thickness direction) measured as a function of applied strain (in longitudinal direction). The line is a fit to equation εt = (ε+1)-v - 1 and is consistent with v=0.5. F) Estimated resistivity as a function of strain. The dashed lines represents ρ = ρ0e.

Figure 3 illustrates the characteristics of G-band strain sensors. A) Low strain, linear gauge factor, G, plotted versus graphene volume fraction. B) Exponential gauge factor, g, (defined in low strain region by ρ = ρ0e) plotted versus graphene volume fraction. C) Linear gauge factor (G) plotted as a function of exponential gauge factor (g). The dashed line is a plot of eq 4 with v=0.5. The data in A-C) is separated into those mass fractions above (solid symbols) and below (open symbols) the percolation threshold (φc=0.17vοl%). D) Summary of results reported in the literature (see table S1). The maximum reported value of G plotted versus the maximum reported strain. For comparison, the data reported is also plotted as well as data from batches of G-bands not included in Figures 2 and 3.

Figure 4 illustrates the dynamic motion sensing using G-bands. A-B) Resistance change as a response to cyclic strain for the ts=48 hours sample using different strain-time profiles. These can be described by the frequency and the maximum strain rate respectively: A) 0.01 Hz and 1.47%/s, B) 0.33 Hz and 142%/s. C) Resistance data plotted versus cycle number for a triangular strain profile (0.08 Hz and 14.0%/s). D) Photograph of a G-band driven to oscillate perpendicular to its length by a vertically vibrating piston. E) Frequency dependence of the peak to peak resistance change, ΔRAmp. The line represents the behaviour expected for a damped driven piston with the resistance amplitude proportional to the square of the piston amplitude: ΔRAmp = ΔRMax(γν)2[(ν2-ν02)2+(γν)2]-1 where ΔRMax is the resistance change on resonance. F) Peak to peak resistance change plotted versus square of piston displacement amplitude. The line is a fit to

G) Photograph of a twisted band during a torsion experiment. H) Resistance versus twist angle for three different twist rates.

Figure 5 illustrates applications of G-bands as body monitors. A) Photo of a G-band connected across a knuckle and B) resistance trace as the finger is repeatedly bent. C) Photo of a G-band wrapped around a forearm and D) resistance trace as the hand is repeatedly opened and closed. E) Photo of a G-band attached to a throat and F) resistance trace as the word "graphene" is repeatedly spoken. G) Resistance traces showing slow breathing. H) Fast Fourier transform showing Fourier components of the breathing waveform. I) Resistance traces showing pulse. J) Fast Fourier transform showing Fourier components of the pulse waveform.


Detailed Description of the Drawings


Materials and Methods


Example 1



[0035] A County Stationary No. 32 rubber band was placed in a beaker of toluene in a low power sonic bath (Branson 1510 model 42kHz) for 3.5 hours. Under these circumstances, the band swells to approximately four times its initial volume. A dispersion of graphene in N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) was prepared by ultrasonic tip-sonication (Sonics Vibra Cell model VCX [750W, 42kHz]) for 72 Hours at 40% amplitude. This was then vacuum filtered to form a film which was redispersed at high concentration (5 mg/ml) by ultrasonic tip-sonication for 10 minutes followed by bath-sonication for 2.5 hours. To this was added water to give a composition of NMP:water=20:80 by volume (see SI for optimisation of NMP:water ratio). The toluene-treated rubber bands were then directly placed into this dispersion and sonicated in a sonic bath for 4 hours. The treated bands were washed by bath sonication in deionised water for 25 minutes (see SI for optimisation of washing time). After this treatment the rubber band was left to dry in a vacuum oven over-night.

[0036] The toluene-swelled bands were soaked in NMP/water for various times from 1-48 hrs and washed in water. Optical micrographs were collected on a Leica microscope using white light illumination and 20× and 50× objectives. Images were recorded with a camera. The Raman measurements were performed using a WITEC alpha300 R Confocal Raman system in air under ambient conditions with the excitation laser line 532 nm. The power of the excitation laser is kept well below 1 mW to avoid heating effect. The Raman emission was collected by an Olympus 100× objective (N.A. = 0.8) and dispersed by 600 lines mm-1 gratings. The mass uptake of graphene was found using an accurate balance to measure the mass of the bands before and after treatment with graphene with respect to as mass lost due to the solvent treatment and cleaning.

[0037] Electrical measurements were performed. Samples for electromechanical testing were prepared by cutting the bands into 4 cm segments. Silver paint was applied to the ends of the band to allow for better contact with the conductive clamps holding the band in place. A Zwick Z0.5 ProLine Tensile Tester (100 N Load Cell) was used to apply dynamic strain to the band whilst a Keithley KE2601 source meter, controlled by LabView software, was used to measure the electrical resistance of the band as a function of both strain and time. The bands were first strained very slowly (10 mm/min) until mechanical failure with stress, strain and electrical resistance monitored continuously. This was performed for bands which had been soaked for 1, 4, 8, 16, 21, 24 and 48 hours. In all cases, the washing time was 25 minutes. Following this, dynamic electromechanical testing was performed on bands soaked for 48 hrs (washing time 25 minutes). Saw tooth strain-time profiles were applied as shown in figure 5 with resistance and strain monitored as a function of time over 300 cycles. Forearm, hand/finger motion, speech, breathing and pulse was monitored in a similar fashion. The forearm band was directly connected to the source meter via crocodile clip leads attached to the band surface. In the other cases, the leads were attached to adhesive copper tape holding the band in place. For breathing and pulse, the bands were mounted on the chest and the finger tip respectively.

Example 2



[0038] A County Stationary No. 32 rubber band was placed in a beaker of toluene in a low power sonic bath (Branson 1510 model 42kHz) for 3.5 hours. Under these circumstances, the band swells to approximately four times its initial volume. A dispersion of VS2, NbSe2 or TaS2 in N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) was prepared by ultrasonic tip-sonication (Sonics Vibra Cell model VCX [750W, 42kHz]) for 72 Hours at 40% amplitude. This was then vacuum filtered to form a film which was redispersed at high concentration (5 mg/ml) by ultrasonic tip-sonication for 10 minutes followed by bath-sonication for 2.5 hours. To this was added water to give a composition of NMP:water=20:80 by volume (see SI for optimisation of NMP:water ratio). The toluene-treated rubber bands were then directly placed into this dispersion and sonicated in a sonic bath for 4 hours. The treated bands were washed by bath sonication in deionised water for 25 minutes (see SI for optimisation of washing time). After this treatment the rubber band was left to dry in a vacuum oven over-night.

[0039] The toluene-swelled bands were soaked in NMP/water for various times from 1-48 hrs and washed in water. Optical micrographs were collected on a Leica microscope using white light illumination and 20× and 50× objectives. Images were recorded with a camera. The Raman measurements were performed using a WITEC alpha300 R Confocal Raman system in air under ambient conditions with the excitation laser line 532 nm. The power of the excitation laser is kept well below 1 mW to avoid heating effect. The Raman emission was collected by an Olympus 100× objective (N.A. = 0.8) and dispersed by 600 lines mm-1 gratings. The mass uptake of VS2, NbSe2 or TaS2 was found using an accurate balance to measure the mass of the bands before and after treatment with VS2, NbSe2 or TaS2 with respect to mass lost due to the solvent treatment and cleaning.

[0040] Electrical measurements were performed. Samples for electromechanical testing were prepared by cutting the bands into 4 cm segments. Silver paint was applied to the ends of the band to allow for better contact with the conductive clamps holding the band in place. A Zwick Z0.5 ProLine Tensile Tester (100 N Load Cell) was used to apply dynamic strain to the band whilst a Keithley KE2601 source meter, controlled by LabView software, was used to measure the electrical resistance of the band as a function of both strain and time. The bands were first strained very slowly (10 mm/min) until mechanical failure with stress, strain and electrical resistance monitored continuously. This was performed for bands which had been soaked for 1, 4, 8, 16, 21, 24 and 48 hours. In all cases, the washing time was 25 minutes. Following this, dynamic electromechanical testing was performed on bands soaked for 48 hrs (washing time 25 minutes). Saw tooth strain-time profiles were applied with resistance and strain monitored as a function of time over 300 cycles. Forearm, hand/finger motion, speech, breathing and pulse was monitored in a similar fashion. The forearm band was directly connected to the source meter via crocodile clip leads attached to the band surface. In the other cases, the leads were attached to adhesive copper tape holding the band in place. For breathing and pulse, the bands were mounted on the chest and the fingertip respectively.

Example 3



[0041] A County Stationary No. 32 rubber band was placed in a beaker of toluene in a low power sonic bath (Branson 1510 model 42kHz) for 3.5 hours. Under these circumstances, the band swells to approximately four times its initial volume. A dispersion of carbon nanotubes or silver nanowires in N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) was prepared by ultrasonic tip-sonication (Sonics Vibra Cell model VCX [750W, 42kHz]) for 72 Hours at 40% amplitude. This was then vacuum filtered to form a film which was redispersed at high concentration (5 mg/ml) by ultrasonic tip-sonication for 10 minutes followed by bath-sonication for 2.5 hours. To this was added water to give a composition of NMP:water=20:80 by volume (see SI for optimisation of NMP:water ratio). The toluene-treated rubber bands were then directly placed into this dispersion and sonicated in a sonic bath for 4 hours. The treated bands were washed by bath sonication in deionised water for 25 minutes (see SI for optimisation of washing time). After this treatment the rubber band was left to dry in a vacuum oven over-night.

[0042] The toluene-swelled bands were soaked in NMP/water for various times from 1-48 hrs and washed in water. Optical micrographs were collected on a Leica microscope using white light illumination and 20× and 50× objectives. Images were recorded with a camera. The Raman measurements were performed using a WITEC alpha300 R Confocal Raman system in air under ambient conditions with the excitation laser line 532 nm. The power of the excitation laser is kept well below 1 mW to avoid heating effect. The Raman emission was collected by an Olympus 100× objective (N.A. = 0.8) and dispersed by 600 lines mm-1 gratings. The mass uptake of carbon nanotubes or silver nanowires was found using an accurate balance to measure the mass of the bands before and after treatment with carbon nanotubes or silver nanowires with respect to mass lost due to the solvent treatment and cleaning.

[0043] Electrical measurements were performed. Samples for electromechanical testing were prepared by cutting the bands into 4 cm segments. Silver paint was applied to the ends of the band to allow for better contact with the conductive clamps holding the band in place. A Zwick Z0.5 ProLine Tensile Tester (100 N Load Cell) was used to apply dynamic strain to the band whilst a Keithley KE2601 source meter, controlled by LabView software, was used to measure the electrical resistance of the band as a function of both strain and time. The bands were first strained very slowly (10 mm/min) until mechanical failure with stress, strain and electrical resistance monitored continuously. This was performed for bands which had been soaked for 1, 4, 8, 16, 21, 24 and 48 hours. In all cases, the washing time was 25 minutes. Following this, dynamic electromechanical testing was performed on bands soaked for 48 hrs (washing time 25 minutes). Saw tooth strain-time profiles were applied with resistance and strain monitored as a function of time over 300 cycles. Forearm, hand/finger motion, speech, breathing and pulse was monitored in a similar fashion. The forearm band was directly connected to the source meter via crocodile clip leads attached to the band surface. In the other cases, the leads were attached to adhesive copper tape holding the band in place. For breathing and pulse, the bands were mounted on the chest and the fingertip respectively.

Results



[0044] Graphene-elastomer composites with strain sensitive resistance were produced by infusing graphene into elastic bands by soaking in high-concentration graphene-solvent dispersions. The elastic bands (Figure 1A) were sourced from County Stationary (No. 32, 1.45×2.75×76mm - thickness×width×circumference) and consisted primarily of natural rubber. To achieve infusion, the bands must first be treated to open pores to allow entry of the graphene platelets. This was achieved by soaking the bands in toluene (Figure 1B) for 3.5 hours in a sonic bath (Branson 1510). Toluene was chosen because its Hansen solubility parameters (δD=18 MPa1/2, δP=1.4 MPa1/2, δH =2 MPa1/2) are relatively close to those of natural rubber (δD=17.4 MPa1/2, δP=3.1 MPa1/2, δH =4.1 MPa1/2). These parameters are related to the dispersive (δD), polar (δP) and H-bonding (δH) components of a materials cohesive energy density and are a measure of intermolecular binding strength. For two systems to mix/interact effectively on the molecular scale, all three Hansen parameter must be close, usually within a few MPa1/2. This is clearly the case for toluene and natural rubber and it is well-known that toluene readily diffuses into the interior of natural rubber. This results in considerable swelling of the band (Figure 1C-D) with all dimensions increasing by factors of ×1.5-1.6 after 3.5 hours soaking. This is consistent with a decrease in density from 930 kg/m3 for natural rubber to ∼250 kg/m3 after 3.5 hrs soaking resulting in the introduction of ∼73% porosity (Figure 1 A-B). Other solvents with Hansen parameters similar to natural rubber can also be used. Examples include cyclohexene, cycloheptane, ethyl-benzene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride etc.

[0045] Graphene can be infused into the open pores simply by soaking in high concentration graphene dispersions (see Materials and Methods). It is well known that graphite can be exfoliated under sonication to give dispersions of graphene nanosheets in solvents such as N-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP). However, it was found that soaking of elastic bands in NMP-graphene dispersions did not result in significant uptake of graphene by the bands. This is probably because it is more energetically favourable for the graphene to remain in the NMP than diffuse into the porous interior of the band. This can be understood by considering the Hansen parameters of graphene (δD=18 MPa1/2, δP=9.3 MPa1/2, δH =7.7 MPa1/2) and NMP (δD=18 MPa1/2, δP=12.3 MPa1/2, δH =7.2 MPa1/2). The Hansen parameters of graphene (particularly δP and δH) are much closer to those of NMP than to natural rubber. This means it is more energetically favourable for the graphene to be surrounded with NMP than natural rubber and so it is unlikely that the graphene will diffuse into the pores in the rubber. To address this problem, it was made less energetically favourable for the graphene to remain dispersed in NMP by adding water to the graphene-NMP dispersion. The Hansen parameters of water (δD=15.5 MPa1/2, δP=16 MPa1/2, δH=42 MPa1/2) are very different from those of NMP. On adding water to NMP, the solvent mixture is described by solubility parameters which are approximately the weighted mean of those of the components. For example a 20:80 NMP:water mixture will have the following Hansen parameters (δD=16 MPa1/2, δP=15.3 MPa1/2, δH =35 MPa1/2). These are significantly different to those of graphene, making it more favourable for the graphene to diffuse into the rubber. After soaking in an NMP:water mixture for a pre-determined soak time (typically 1-48 hrs), the bands were removed and washed by briefly sonicating in water. On drying it was found that the band had shrunk relative to its swollen state but typically did not return to its original size (Figure 1E). In addition, the bands had changed colour, taking on a much darker hue typical of polymer-graphene composites.

[0046] The effect of soaking was investigated by performing optical microscopy on the surface of the bands. Shown in Figure IF is an optical image of an untreated band. The rubber appears to display structure on length scales of a few microns to tens of microns. It is suggested that this reflects the fact that natural rubber consists of latex particles with a range of diameters up to a few microns. After soaking in toluene, followed by drying in a vacuum oven for 12 hours, (Figure 1G) this structure is less visible perhaps suggesting some coalescence of the latex particles. However, after soaking in toluene followed by soaking in NMP:water (20:80) (Figure 1H) circular pits, typically a few microns in diameter can clearly be seen. This suggests that these represent latex particles or particles clusters which have been removed from the surface under sonication in the NMP:water mixture. This is plausible as the latex particles comprising natural rubber tend to be coated by a mixture of proteins which can interact strongly with water. Figure 1I shows these pits to also be present after soaking in NMP:water/graphene dispersion. This suggests that the water plays a dual role. In addition to driving the graphene out of dispersion, it may act to weaken the bonds between latex particles. This could introduce gaps between particles. Eventually, these gaps might coalesce into an inter-connected porous network with pore size large enough for graphene to diffuse into.

[0047] This hypothesis was tested by investigating whether graphene actually reaches the interior of the network rather than remaining solely on the surface. This was more challenging than expected. Initial attempts to image fracture surfaces of bands broken after dipping in liquid N2 showed nothing. Attempts to map the fracture surface with Raman spectroscopy failed due to severe heating of the rubber under the beam. To avoid such heating effects, the freeze-fractured surfaces were stamped onto scotch tape and transferred the material adhered from the scotch tape to Si/SiO2 wafers (200 nm oxide) in a manner similar to micromechanical cleavage of graphite.

[0048] The material which has been transferred into the wafer can easily be imaged optically and characterised with Raman spectroscopy. As shown in Figure 1J a number of blue-green spots can be seen close to the position of the wafer associated with the edge of the band (dashed line). Raman spectroscopy (Figure 1K) shows these spots to be a few layers of graphene. In all cases, such graphene flakes were found within -0.3 mm from the edge of the rubber band. This penetration depth is most likely an underestimation, due to the difficulties in transferring the embedded material. Also observed were very faint vibrational modes attributed to natural rubber (1260, 1442, 2848, 2882 cm-1) in some areas of the wafer, suggesting that both graphene and rubber were transferred in the stamping process. This would be expected if graphene flakes which were embedded in the rubber were transferred rather than just graphene which had become adhered during fracture or handling.

[0049] It can be confirmed that graphene is embedded in the rubber by investigating the fracture surface using Helium ion microscopy. This technique resembles SEM but is much more effective for imaging low conductivity surfaces. Shown in Figure 11 is a Helium ion micrograph of a graphene flake protruding from a band fracture surface. This flake was observed approximately 200 µm from the band edge and is clearly embedded in the rubber. This confirms that graphene can enter the interior of the band under the conditions described above.

[0050] By carefully weighing the bands after soaking, washing and drying, graphene uptake as a function of soak time was measured. This data is shown in Figure 1M and confirms that the graphene mass fraction increases steadily with soak time, reaching 0.63wt% after 48 hrs. Empirically, the mass fraction increases as

This behaviour has been observed previously for carbon nanotube buckypaper soaked in polymer solutions.

[0051] For each of the soak times, the (unstrained) electrical resistance, R0, was measured which is plotted as a function of graphene volume fraction in Figure 2A. The resistance varies from 3.5 MΩ at very low volume fraction (ts=30 min) to 98 kΩ at φ=0.43% (ts=48 hrs). To better understand this, the conductivity, σ, was plotted as a function of volume fraction in Figure 2B. This data clearly shows two regimes, one on either side of φ≈0.2%. The upper range (φ>0.2%) is consistent with percolation theory and is described by the percolation scaling law: σ = σ0(φ-φc)t, where φc is the percolation threshold and t is the percolation exponent. Fitting gives φc=0.17, close to values previously reported for solution cast polymer-graphene composites and consistent with the value of φc∼0.1% expected theoretically for isotropic distributions of nanosheets with aspect ratio ∼1000. In addition, t=2.0, identical to the universal 3-dimensional percolation exponent.

[0052] However, the lower range (φ<0.2%) shows higher conductivity than would be expected given the measured percolation threshold quoted above. Interestingly, this data fits well to a second percolation scaling law, again with t=2.0 but with percolation threshold indistinguishable from zero. The presence of a second percolation threshold is rather unusual but has been observed in systems where current can flow for φ < φc, due to tunnelling between physically disconnected particles. This implies that a physically connected network of nanosheets only forms at φc=0.17. This is supported by data which shows the modulus, Y, of the G-bands to remain roughly constant before increasing for values of φ>0.2% (Figure 2B inset). This is consistent with mechanical percolation where stiffening only occurs when a connected network forms. Indeed, it was found that the modulus data is well fit by the mechanical percolation equation (Y - Ymatrix ∝ (φ - φc)t) with Ymatrix=1.3 MPa, φc=0.17% and t=2.0 (solid red line). Whether the graphene nanosheets are physically touching to form a continuous network or not, it is expected that the electrical resistance to increase on the application of strain due to the divergence of adjacent nanosheets. Strain was applied slowly (10 mm/min) to G-bands with a range of volume fractions. In all cases the resistance increased exponentially at low to intermediate strains as described empirically by R = R0eγε, where γ varied from 1-2 at low φ to 3-4 at higher φ. Although the resistance increased more slowly at strains above ∼100-200% (Figure 2C), in some cases the total resistance increase was almost three orders of magnitude for strains of ε>500%. In addition, ΔR / R0 was found to scale linearly with ε at low strain for all samples (Figure 2D), giving values of up to G=16 in the main batch used in the experiments described herein. However, some batches of G-bands displayed values of G as high as 30.

[0053] In order to understand the strain-induced resistance changes, it is necessary to differentiate strain-induced dimensional changes from flake separation effects. For strain sensitive materials in general, one can relate the fractional resistance change to the strain by:

where the first term describes the effects of dimensional changes while the second term describes the effects of any strain dependence of the resistivity. Thus it is important to understand the effect of strain on the intrinsic material resistivity. For nano-composites, the resistivity will increase with strain as the nano-conductors are pulled apart. Specifically, the inter-nanosheet charge transport will be by tunnelling, allowing one to write as effective inter-nanosheet resistance as RJeβd, where d is the inter-nanosheet distance and β is a constant which depends on the details of the inter-nanosheet potential barrier. In nano-structured systems, such junction resistances tend to control the electrical properties such that ρRJ. It is assumed that the inter-nanosheet separation scales with sample length on stretching which implies that ε = (d - d0) / d0, where do is the unstrained inter-nanosheet separation. Combining these equations to eliminate RJ and d gives:

where g is denoted as the exponential gauge factor as defined by g = βd0.

[0054] To test this prediction, the strain dependent resistivity must be obtained. This requires knowledge of Poisson's ratio, which is obtained be measuring changes in G-band thickness, t, as a function of band length, L, for four volume fractions, as shown in Figure 2E. As expected, the transverse strain, εt = (t - t0) / t0, scaled with longitudinal strain, ε = (L - L0) / L0, as εt = (ε + 1)-v - 1, with fitting giving v=0.5 for all bands. This is consistent with the strained G-band thickness, t, width, w and length, L, being interrelated by t / t0 = w / w0 = (L / L0)-v where t0, w0 and L0 are the unstrained dimensions. This allows the intrinsic resistivity to be estimated as a function of strain using



[0055] The strain dependent resistivity, calculated in this way is shown in Figure 2F for two representative G-bands. For low volume fractions, ρ scales exponentially with ε over the entire strain range as predicted by equation 2. However, for φφc the resistivity increase slows at strains above -100%, possibly due to jamming or rotational effects. Fitting gave values of g from 0-1 at low φ to 2-3 at higher φ.

[0056] In the low-strain region, equation 2 can be expanded to give Δρ / ρ0 = gε. Substituting this into equation 1 gives



[0057] Applying the definition of gauge factor, G, predicts a relationship between linear and exponential gauge factors:



[0058] The gauge factor, G, was plotted as a function of graphene volume fraction, φ, in Figure 3A. As has been observed for previous nano-composite strain gauges, G increases sharply as the volume fraction is reduced with values as high as G=16 observed for samples with φ < φc. A plot of g versus φ, as shown in Figure 3B, shows it to increase with volume fraction. As described above, it was expected that g = βd0. For φφc the nanosheets form a connected network, meaning d0 should be constant. Thus, increases in g with φ imply β and so the potential barrier to vary with φ. In addition, it was found that the exponential factor, γ, which controls the strain dependence of resistance, to scale empirically with g as: γg + 1.

[0059] Taking v=0.5, the prediction of equation 5 was tested in Figure 3C, finding good agreement for composites above the percolation threshold. Below the percolation threshold, anomalously high values of G are found for reasons which are not understood. However, this data has clear implications: if high strain sensitivity (i.e. high ΔR / R0) is required at low strain, then composites with φ < φc are required while if high sensitivity at high strain is required (i.e. high g) larger values of φ are needed.

[0060] Because of the relationship between G and g, G as a figure of merit can be used for the sensitivity of strain sensors in both the high and low strain regimes. However, the vast majority of strain-sensing materials are relatively brittle and so unsuited to high-strain sensing. Thus, a combination of high g and high failure-strain is required for any versatile strain sensing material. In Figure 3D, a map of the maximum reported values of both G and operating strain were plotted for a range of strain sensors from both the literature and the study described here. It was found that the best G-band strain sensors to have comparable gauge factors to the best high-strain (ε>10%) sensors. However, the best G-bands described here work at considerably higher stains then even the most ductile strain sensors reported to date (635% versus 280%).

[0061] The combination of high sensitivity and ductility suggests G-bands to be ideal for dynamic strain sensing. To test this, a tensile tester was used to subject G-bands to a number of cyclic strain profiles with frequencies and maximum strain rates in the range 0.01-0.33 Hz and 1.47-142 %/s respectively. As shown in Figures 4A and B, log(R) followed the strain extremely well with little degradation over at least 300 cycles (Figure 4C). In particular, the sample tested at 0.33 Hz displayed a maximum value of ΔR / R0 =40 at ε=75%. This behaviour is consistent with g=4-5 and is competitive with the best nano-composite strain sensors which operate at strains above 1%. For comparison, Park et al. (Highly stretchable electric circuits from a composite material of silver nanoparticles and elastomeric fibres. Nat. Nanotechnol. 7, 803-809, (2012)) demonstrated silver nano-particle/elastomer composites which operated at 1 Hz displaying maximum values of ΔR / R0 =3 strains up to 16%.

[0062] In the experiments described above, the frequency range was limited by the tensile tester used. To explore the sensor response at higher frequencies we used a commercial vibration generator to drive a piston which oscillated the band perpendicular to its length (Figure 4D). Using a travelling microscope we could show that, with the band in place, the piston oscillated like a damped, driven linear oscillator with amplitude, yAmp, which varied with frequency, ν, as

where yAmp=3.0 mm was the resonant amplitude, γ=22 Hz was the damping constant and ω0=63.5 Hz was the resonant frequency. In this geometry and at low strain, the strain amplitude is given by

Using an oscilloscope, the amplitude of resistance oscillation, ΔRAmp, as a function of frequency was monitored, as shown in Figure 4E. Assuming linear behaviour, the resistance amplitude is expected to be given by



[0063] As such the data was fitted in Figure 4E to

(i.e.

) where ΔRRes =7.8 kΩ is the resistance amplitude on resonance and γ=24 Hz and ω0=63.8. It was noted that the fit is very good over all frequencies, even close to resonance where the G-band is subjected to velocities, tensile strains and strain rates of approximately 1.2 m/s, 6% and 7000 %/s, respectively. ΔRAmp versus ∝ yAmp was plotted in Figure 4F, showing good agreement with equation 6 consistent with G=2.8, approximately independent of frequency. It is noted that the sensitivity of this G-band remains undiminished at frequencies of up to 200 Hz. This is believed to be the highest frequency nano-composite strain sensor yet demonstrated.

[0064] The ability of G-bands to respond to torsion was also tested (Figure 4G). Measureable changes in resistance were detected giving values of ΔR / R0 up to 12 for twist angles of up to 1300 ° at rotation rates of up to at least 33 °/s.

[0065] The Applicants believe G-bands to be of great interest in a range of applications but in particular as components in medical devices for measuring human (or animal) motion and for monitoring in a range of areas from motion of athletes to rehabilitation to general well-being. To demonstrate the broad dynamic range of the G-bands, the G-bands of the present application were tested as strain sensors in a number of scenarios. By attaching a G-band across the first knuckle of the index finger (Figure 5A), the relatively high-strain motion (ε∼40%) associated with repeated bending of the finger could be monitored (Figure 5B). Muscular motion associated with clenching and unclenching of the fist (ε∼4%) was also monitored by wrapping a G-band around the forearm (Figure 5C&D). By attaching the G-Band to the throat (Figure 5E) speech could be detected (Figure 5F), in this case repeated enunciation of the word "graphene". It was noted that the G-band is so sensitive that care must be taken by the subject to remain still or small neck movements will dominate the response rendering the throat movement associated with speech undetectable.

[0066] In order to clearly demonstrate the sensitivity and potential of G-bands as dynamic strain sensors, it was attempted to measure the very subtle motions associated with breathing and pulse. To monitor breathing, a ∼3 cm long G-band was attached horizontally across the rib cage on the subjects side. The resistance was monitored over approximately 5 minutes with the subject sitting in a chair. A section of the resistance-time waveform is shown in Figure 5G. A well-defined, asymmetric, periodic response can clearly be seen. The Fourier transform (Figure 5H) clearly shows the Fourier components associated with the breathing movement. More challenging was the measurement of pulse. Here a band which displayed particularly low current noise was wrapped around the tip of the subject's finger with a few 10s of percent pre-strain. Under these circumstances, a symmetric, periodic waveform was detected (Figure 5I) with a frequency of ∼1 Hz and a single Fourier component (Figure 5J) as expected for human pulse.

[0067] As demonstrated herein, the technical advantages of the sensors produced by the very simple method of the subject application, which infiltrates commercially available elastic bands with liquid-exfoliated graphene to produce versatile strain sensors, are (i) the observed gauge factors are up to 30, which is much higher than most; (ii) strains can be operated up to 600%, both under quasi-static conditions or at dynamic strain rates of at least 7000 %/s, which is much higher than most; and (iii) the sensors can sense fast motion - up to 200 Hz, which is 20-times faster than currently observed sensors of this type. This is also believed to be the highest frequency nano-composite strain sensor yet demonstrated. An impressive performance as kinesthetic motion sensors, detecting motions as subtle as those associated with breathing and pulse, have also been demonstrated.


Claims

1. A process for producing conductive composites, the process comprising the steps of:

a) soaking an elastomer in an organic solvent;

b) soaking the elastomer from step a) in a solution of a conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material dispersed in an organic solvent:water mixture, such that the conductive nano- material is incorporated into the elastomer structure;

c) washing the conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer in deionised water; and

d) drying the washed conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer to produce the conductive composite,

wherein the conductive composite incorporates the exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material throughout the structure of the elastomer without affecting the integrity of the properties of the elastomer.
 
2. A process for producing conductive composites according to Claim 1, wherein energy is applied to steps a), b) and c).
 
3. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of Claims 1 or 2, wherein the conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material is an exfoliated 2-dimensional material obtained from exfoliating any suitable 3-dimensional layered compound; and wherein the 3-dimensional layered compound is graphite or any transition metal dichalcogenide having the formula MXn, or any other layered material such as transition metal oxides, boron nitride (BN), Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, TiNCl, MoO3 or any other inorganic layered compound; or wherein when the 3-dimensional layered compound is a transition metal dichalcogenide having the formula MXn, M is selected from the group comprising Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mn, Mo, W, Tc, Re, Ni, Pd, Pt, Fe, and Ru; X is selected from the group comprising O, S, Se, and Te; and 1 ≤n ≤ 3.
 
4. A process for producing conductive composites according to any preceding claim, wherein the conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material is graphene.
 
5. A process for producing conductive composites according to any preceding claim, wherein the process further comprises the step of inserting the conductive exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material into an elastomer to form a composite; wherein the elastomer is optionally selected from, but not limited to, the group comprising polybutadiene, butadiene and acrylonitrile copolymers (NBR), natural and synthetic rubber, polyesteramide, chloropene rubbers, poly(styrene-b-butadiene) copolymers, polysiloxanes (such as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)), polyisoprene, polyurethane, polychloroprene, chlorinated polyethylene, polyester/ether urethane, poly ethylene propylene, chlorosulphanated polyethylene, polyalkylene oxide and mixtures thereof.
 
6. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the energy applied is sonication.
 
7. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the organic solvent in step (a) is selected from the group comprising toluene, cyclohexene, cycloheptane, ethyl-benzene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride.
 
8. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of the preceding claims, the organic solvent in the organic solvent:water mixture is selected from the group comprising N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), cyclohexylpyrrolidone, di-methyl formamide, cyclopentanone (CPO), cyclohexanone, N-formyl piperidine (NFP), vinyl pyrrolidone (NVP), 1,3-Dimethyl-2-imidazolidinone (DMEU), bromobenzene, benzonitrile, N-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP), benzyl benzoate, N,N'-Dimethylpropylene urea, (DMPU), gamma-butrylactone (GBL), dimethylformamide (DMF), N-ethyl-pyrrolidone (NEP), dimethylacetamide (DMA), cyclohexylpyrrolidone (CHP), DMSO, dibenzyl ether, chloroform, isopropylalcohol (IPA), cholobenzene, 1-octyl-2-pyrrolidone (N8P), 1-3 dioxolane, ethyl acetate, quinoline, benzaldehyde, ethanolamine, diethyl phthalate, N-dodecyl-2-pyrrolidone (N12P), pyridine, dimethyl phthalate, formamide, vinyl acetate, acetone.
 
9. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the organic solvent:water mixture is a ratio selected from 50:50, 40:60: 30:70, 20:80, or 10:90 (volume:volume).
 
10. A process for producing conductive composites according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein in step (b), the elastomer is soaked for 1 hour to 48 hours; and wherein in step (c), the exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer is washed for 1 minute to 60 minutes; and wherein in step (d), the exfoliated 2-dimensional nano-material-incorporated elastomer is dried in a vacuum oven for 1 hour to 24 hours to produce the conductive composite.
 
11. A device comprising the composite produced by the process of any one of Claims 1 to 10; wherein the device is optionally selected from, but not limited to, the group comprising electrodes, electrodes, capacitors, transistors, solar cells, dye sensitised solar cells, light emitting diodes, thermoelectric devices, dielectrics, batteries, battery electrodes, capacitor, super capacitors, sensors, strain/motion sensors, nano-transistors, nano-capacitors, nano-light emitting diodes, and nano-solar cells.
 
12. A device of Claim 11 comprising the conductive composite produced by the process of any one of Claims 1 to 10, wherein the device is a motion or strain sensor.
 
13. A method of monitoring a pulse or breathing in a subject, the method comprising the steps of:

a) attaching a motion or strain sensor according to Claim 12 to any one of a radial, ulnar, apical, temporal, carotid, brachial, femoral, popliteal or pedal pulse points of the subject or

b) attaching a motion or strain sensor according to Claim 12 to the rib cage of the subject; and

c) monitoring the resistance produced in the sensor over time to monitor or measure the pulse or breathing of the subject.


 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen, wobei das Verfahren die folgenden Schritte umfasst:

a) Einweichen eines Elastomers in einem organischen Lösungsmittel;

b) Einweichen des Elastomers aus Schritt a) in einer Lösung eines leitfähigen exfoliierten 2-dimensionalen Nanomaterials, das in einer Mischung von organischem Lösungsmittel : Wasser dispergiert ist, sodass das leitfähige Nanomaterial in die Elastomerstruktur eingebaut wird;

c) Waschen des Elastomers, in das leitfähiges exfoliiertes 2-dimensionales Nanomaterial eingebaut wurde, in deionisiertem Wasser; und

d) Trocknen des gewaschenen Elastomers, in das leitfähiges exfoliiertes 2-dimensionales Nanomaterial eingebaut wurde, um den leitfähigen Verbundstoff herzustellen,

wobei der leitfähige Verbundstoff das exfoliierte 2-dimensionale Nanomaterial durchgehend in der Struktur des Elastomers eingebaut aufweist, ohne die Integrität der Eigenschaften des Elastomers zu beeinträchtigen.
 
2. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach Anspruch 1, wobei in den Schritten a), b) und c) Energie angewendet wird.
 
3. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der Ansprüche 1 oder 2, wobei das leitfähige exfoliierte 2-dimensionale Nanomaterial ein exfoliiertes 2-dimensionales Material ist, das durch Exfoliation von jedweder geeigneten 3-dimensionalen geschichteten Verbindung erhalten wird; und wobei die 3-dimensionale geschichtete Verbindung Folgendes ist: Graphit oder jedwedes Übergangsmetall-Dichalcogenid, das die Formel MXn aufweist, oder jedwedes andere geschichtete Material, wie zum Beispiel Übergangsmetalloxide, Bornitrid (BN), Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, TiNCl, MoO3, oder jedwede andere anorganische geschichtete Verbindung; oder wobei, wenn die 3-dimensionale geschichtete Verbindung ein Übergangsmetall-Dichalcogenid ist, das die Formel MXn aufweist, M aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, die Folgende umfasst: Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mn, Mo, W, Tc, Re, Ni, Pd, Pt, Fe und Ru; X aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, die O, S, Se und Te umfasst; und 1 ≤ n ≤ 3.
 
4. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem vorstehenden Anspruch, wobei das leitfähige exfoliierte 2-dimensionale Nanomaterial Graphen ist.
 
5. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem vorstehenden Anspruch, wobei das Verfahren weiter den Schritt des Einführens des leitfähigen exfoliierten 2-dimensionalen Nanomaterials in ein Elastomer zur Bildung eines Verbundstoffs umfasst; wobei das Elastomer optional aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, doch nicht beschränkt darauf ist, die Folgende umfasst: Polybutadien, Butadien-Acrylnitril-Copolymere (NBR), Natur- und Synthesekautschuk, Polyesteramid, Chloropren-Kautschuke, Poly(styrol-b-butadien)-Copolymere, Polysiloxane (wie zum Beispiel Polydimethylsiloxan (PDMS)), Polyisopren, Polyurethan, Polychloropren, chloriertes Polyethylen, Polyester-/-etherurethan, Polyethylenpropylen, chlorsulfoniertes Polyethylen, Polyalkylenoxid und Mischungen davon.
 
6. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die angewendete Energie Ultraschallbehandlung ist.
 
7. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das organische Lösungsmittel im Schritt (a) aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, die Folgende umfasst: Toluol, Cyclohexen, Cycloheptan, Ethylbenzol, Benzol, Tetrachlorkohlenstoff.
 
8. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das organische Lösungsmittel in der Mischung von organischem Lösungsmittel : Wasser aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, die Folgende umfasst: N-Methylpyrrolidon (NMP), Cyclohexylpyrrolidon, Dimethylformamid, Cyclopentanon (CPO), Cyclohexanon, N-Formylpiperidin (NFP), Vinylpyrrolidon (NVP), 1,3-Dimethyl-2-imidazolidinon (DMEU), Brombenzol, Benzonitril, N-Methylpyrrolidon (NMP), Benzylbenzoat, N,N'-Dimethylpropylenharnstoff (DMPU), gamma-Butyrolacton (GBL), Dimethylformamid (DMF), N-Ethylpyrrolidon (NEP), Dimethylacetamid (DMA), Cyclohexylpyrrolidon (CHP), DMSO, Dibenzylether, Chloroform, Isopropylalkohol (IPA), Chlorbenzol, 1-Octyl-2-pyrrolidon (N8P), 1,3-Dioxolan, Ethylacetat, Chinolin, Benzaldehyd, Ethanolamin, Diethylphthalat, N-Dodecyl-2-pyrrolidon (N12P), Pyridin, Dimethylphthalat, Formamid, Vinylacetat, Aceton.
 
9. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Mischung von organischem Lösungsmittel : Wasser ein Verhältnis aufweist, das aus 50 : 50, 40 : 60, 30 : 70, 20 : 80 oder 10 : 90 (Volumen : Volumen) ausgewählt ist.
 
10. Verfahren für die Herstellung von leitfähigen Verbundstoffen nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei im Schritt (b) das Elastomer für 1 Stunde bis 48 Stunden eingeweicht wird und wobei im Schritt (c) das Elastomer, in das exfoliiertes 2-dimensionales Nanomaterial eingebaut wurde, für 1 Minute bis 60 Minuten gewaschen wird und wobei im Schritt (d) das Elastomer, in das exfoliiertes 2-dimensionales Nanomaterial eingebaut wurde, in einem Vakuumschrank für 1 Stunde bis 24 Stunden getrocknet wird, um den leitfähigen Verbundstoff herzustellen.
 
11. Vorrichtung, die den Verbundstoff umfasst, der durch das Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 10 hergestellt wird, wobei die Vorrichtung optional aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist, doch nicht beschränkt darauf ist, die Folgende umfasst: Elektroden, Elektroden, Kondensatoren, Transistoren, Solarzellen, farbstoffsensibilisierte Solarzellen, Leuchtdioden, thermoelektrische Vorrichtungen, Dielektrika, Batterien, Batterieelektroden, Kondensator, Superkondensatoren, Sensoren, Dehnungs- /Bewegungssensoren, Nanotransistoren, Nanokondensatoren, Nanoleuchtdioden und Nanosolarzellen.
 
12. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 11, die den leitfähigen Verbundstoff umfasst, der durch das Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 10 hergestellt wird, wobei die Vorrichtung ein Bewegungs- oder Dehnungssensor ist.
 
13. Verfahren zur Überwachung eines Pulses oder einer Atmung bei einem Subjekt, wobei das Verfahren die folgenden Schritte umfasst:

a) Anbringen eines Bewegungs- oder Dehnungssensors nach Anspruch 12 an eines von Folgenden: eine radiale, ulnare, apikale, temporale, Carotiden-, brachiale, femorale, popliteale oder pedale Pulsstelle des Subjekts, oder

b) Anbringen eines Bewegungs- oder Dehnungssensors nach Anspruch 12 an den Brustkorb des Subjekts und

c) Überwachen des Widerstands, der in dem Sensor mit der Zeit erzeugt wird, um den Puls oder die Atmung des Subjekts zu überwachen oder zu messen.


 


Revendications

1. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs, le procédé comprenant les étapes consistant à :

a) tremper un élastomère dans un solvant organique ;

b) tremper l'élastomère de l'étape a) dans une solution d'un nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur dispersé dans un mélange solvant organique:eau, de telle sorte que le nanomatériau conducteur est incorporé dans la structure de l'élastomère ;

c) laver l'élastomère à nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur incorporé dans de l'eau désionisée ; et

d) sécher l'élastomère à nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur incorporé lavé pour produire le composite conducteur,

où le composite conducteur incorpore le nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié dans toute la structure de l'élastomère sans affecter l'intégrité des propriétés de l'élastomère.
 
2. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon la revendication 1, où de l'énergie est appliquée aux étapes a), b) et c).
 
3. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 ou 2, où le nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur est un matériau bidimensionnel exfolié obtenu à partir de l'exfoliation de tout composé en couches tridimensionnel approprié ; et où le composé en couches tridimensionnel est le graphite ou tout dichalcogénure de métal de transition ayant la formule MXn, ou tout autre matériau en couches tel que les oxydes de métal de transition, le nitrure de bore (BN), Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, TiNCl, MoO3 ou tout autre composé en couches inorganique ; ou où lorsque le composé en couches tridimensionnel est un dichalcogénure de métal de transition ayant la formule MXn, M est choisi dans le groupe comprenant Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mn, Mo, W, Tc, Re, Ni, Pd, Pt, Fe et Ru ; X est choisi dans le groupe comprenant O, S, Se et Te ; et 1 ≤ n ≤ 3.
 
4. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où le nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur est le graphène.
 
5. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où le procédé comprend en outre l'étape consistant à insérer le nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié conducteur dans un élastomère pour former un composite ; où l'élastomère est facultativement choisi, mais sans y être limité, dans le groupe comprenant les copolymères de polybutadiène, de butadiène et d'acrylonitrile (NBR), le caoutchouc naturel et synthétique, le polyesteramide, les caoutchoucs de chloroprène, les copolymères de poly(styrène-b-butadiène), les polysiloxanes (tels que le polydiméthylsiloxane (PDMS)), le polyisoprène, le polyuréthane, le polychloroprène, le polyéthylène chloré, le polyester/éther-uréthane, le polyéthylène-propylène, le polyéthylène chlorosulfoné, le poly(oxyde d'alkylène) et leurs mélanges.
 
6. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où l'énergie appliquée est une sonication.
 
7. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où le solvant organique de l'étape (a) est choisi dans le groupe comprenant le toluène, le cyclohexène, le cycloheptane, l'éthyl-benzène, le benzène, le tétrachlorure de carbone.
 
8. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, le solvant organique dans le mélange solvant organique:eau est choisi dans le groupe comprenant la N-méthylpyrrolidone (NMP), la cyclohexylpyrrolidone, le diméthylformamide, la cyclopentanone (CPO), la cyclohexanone, la N-formylpipéridine (NFP), la vinylpyrrolidone (NVP), la 1,3-diméthyl-2-imidazolidinone (DMEU), le bromobenzène, le benzonitrile, la N-méthylpyrrolidone (NMP), le benzoate de benzyle, la N,N'-diméthylpropylène urée (DMPU), la gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), le diméthylformamide (DMF), la N-éthyl-pyrrolidone (NEP), le diméthylacétamide (DMA), la cyclohexylpyrrolidone (CHP), le DMSO, le dibenzyléther, le chloroforme, l'alcool isopropylique (IPA), le chlorobenzène, la 1-octyl-2-pyrrolidone (N8P), le 1-3 dioxolane, l'acétate d'éthyle, la quinoléine, le benzaldéhyde, l'éthanolamine, le phtalate de diéthyle, la N-dodécyl-2-pyrrolidone (N12P), la pyridine, le phtalate de diméthyle, le formamide, l'acétate de vinyle, l'acétone.
 
9. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où le mélange solvant organique:eau est un rapport choisi parmi 50:50, 40:60, 30:70, 20:80 ou 10:90 (volume:volume).
 
10. Procédé pour la production de composites conducteurs selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, où à l'étape (b), l'élastomère est trempé pendant 1 heure à 48 heures ; et où à l'étape (c), l'élastomère à nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié incorporé est lavé pendant 1 minute à 60 minutes ; et où à l'étape (d), l'élastomère à nanomatériau bidimensionnel exfolié incorporé est séché dans une étuve à vide pendant 1 heure à 24 heures pour produire le composite conducteur.
 
11. Dispositif comprenant le composite produit par le procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 10 ; où le dispositif est facultativement choisi, mais sans y être limité, dans le groupe comprenant des électrodes, des électrodes, des condensateurs, des transistors, des cellules solaires, des cellules solaires sensibilisées par un colorant, des diodes électroluminescentes, des dispositifs thermoélectriques, des diélectriques, des batteries, des électrodes de batterie, un condensateur, des supercondensateurs, des capteurs, des capteurs de contrainte/mouvement, des nanotransistors, des nanocondensateurs, des nanodiodes électroluminescentes et des nanocellules solaires.
 
12. Dispositif selon la revendication 11 comprenant le composite conducteur produit par le procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 10, où le dispositif est un capteur de mouvement ou de contrainte.
 
13. Procédé de surveillance d'un pouls ou de la respiration chez un sujet, le procédé comprenant les étapes consistant à :

a) fixer un capteur de mouvement ou de contrainte selon la revendication 12 sur l'un quelconque des points de pouls radial, cubital, apical, temporal, carotidien, brachial, fémoral, poplité ou pédieux du sujet ou

b) fixer un capteur de mouvement ou de contrainte selon la revendication 12 sur la cage thoracique du sujet ; et

c) surveiller la résistance produite dans le capteur au cours du temps pour surveiller ou mesurer le pouls ou la respiration du sujet.


 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Patent documents cited in the description




Non-patent literature cited in the description