Han, Lian;Cui, Songbo;Yu, Hou-Yong;Song, Meili;Zhang, Haoyu;Grishkewich, Nathan;Huang, Congguo;Kim, Daesung;Tam, Kam Michael Chiu;
Electronic skins are developed for applications such as biomedical sensors, robotic prosthetics, and human-machine interactions, which raise the interest in composite materials that possess both flexibility and sensing properties. Polypyrrole-coated cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibers were prepared using iron(III) chloride (FeCl3) oxidant, which were used to reinforce polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The combination of weak H-bonds and iron coordination bonds and the synergistic effect of these components yielded self-healing nanocomposite films with robust mechanical strength (409% increase compared to pure PVA and high toughness up to 407.1%) and excellent adhesion (9670 times greater than its own weight) to various substrates in air and water. When damaged, the nanocomposite films displayed good mechanical (72.0-76.3%) and conductive (54.9-91.2%) recovery after a healing time of 30 min. More importantly, the flexible nanocomposites possessed high strain sensitivity under subtle strains (<48.5%) with a gauge factor (GF) of 2.52, which was relatively larger than the GF of ionic hydrogel-based skin sensors. These nanocomposite films possessed superior sensing performance for real-time monitoring of large and subtle human motions (finger bending motions, swallowing, and wrist pulse); thus, they have great potentials in health monitoring, smart flexible skin sensors. and wearable electronic devices.