Transparent, elastic conductors are essential components of electronic and optoelectronic devices that facilitate human interaction and biofeedback, such as interactive electronics1, implantable medical devices2 and robotic systems with human-like sensing capabilities3. The availability of conducting thin films with these properties could lead to the development of skin-like sensors4 that stretch reversibly, sense pressure (not just touch), bend into hairpin turns, integrate with collapsible, stretchable and mechanically robust displays5 and solar cells6, and also wrap around non-planar and biological7,8,9 surfaces such as skin10 and organs11, without wrinkling. We report transparent, conducting spray-deposited films of single-walled carbon nanotubes that can be rendered stretchable by applying strain along each axis, and then releasing this strain. This process produces spring-like structures in the nanotubes that accommodate strains of up to 150% and demonstrate conductivities as high as 2,200 S cm−1 in the stretched state. We also use the nanotube films as electrodes in arrays of transparent, stretchable capacitors, which behave as pressure and strain sensors.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
LeMieux, M. C. & Bao, Z. N. Flexible electronics: stretching our imagination. Nature Nanotech. 3, 585–586 (2008).
Kim, B. Y. S., Rutka, J. T. & Chan, W. C. W. Current concepts: nanomedicine. New Engl. J. Med. 363, 2434–2443 (2010).
Ilievski, F., Mazzeo, A. D., Shepherd, R. F., Chen, X. & Whitesides, G. M. Soft sobotics for chemists. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 50, 1890–1895 (2011).
Cotton, D. P. J., Graz, I. M. & Lacour, S. P. A multifunctional capacitive sensor for stretchable electronic skins. IEEE Sens. J. 9, 2008–2009 (2009).
Sekitani, T. et al. Stretchable active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display using printable elastic conductors. Nature Mater. 8, 494–499 (2009).
Lipomi, D. J., Tee, B. C.-K., Vosgueritchian, M. & Bao, Z. N. Stretchable organic solar cells. Adv. Mater. 23, 1771–1775 (2011).
Ko, H. C. et al. A hemispherical electronic eye camera based on compressible silicon optoelectronics. Nature 454, 748–753 (2008).
Kim, D. H. et al. Dissolvable films of silk fibroin for ultrathin conformal bio-integrated electronics. Nature Mater. 9, 511–517 (2010).
Kim, R. H. et al. Waterproof AlInGaP optoelectronics on stretchable substrates with applications in biomedicine and robotics. Nature Mater. 9, 929–937 (2010).
Kim, D. H. et al. Epidermal electronics. Science 333, 838–843 (2011).
Viventi, J. et al. A conformal, bio-interfaced class of silicon electronics for mapping cardiac electrophysiology. Sci. Transl. Med. 2, 24ra22 (2010).
Graz, I. M., Cotton, D. P. J. & Lacour, S. P. Extended cyclic uniaxial loading of stretchable gold thin-films on elastomeric substrates. Appl. Phys. Lett. 98, 071902 (2009).
Jones, J., Lacour, S. P., Wagner, S. & Suo, Z. G. Stretchable wavy metal interconnects. J. Vac. Sci. Technol. A 22, 1723–1725 (2004).
Tahk, D., Lee, H. H. & Khang, D. Y. Elastic moduli of organic electronic materials by the buckling method. Macromolecules 42, 7079–7083 (2009).
Zhang, Y. Y. et al. Polymer-embedded carbon nanotube ribbons for stretchable conductors. Adv. Mater. 22, 3027–3031 (2010).
Kim, K. S. et al. Large-scale pattern growth of graphene films for stretchable transparent electrodes. Nature 457, 706–710 (2009).
Avouris, P. Carbon nanotube electronics and photonics. Phys. Today 62, 34–40 (2009).
Bae, S. et al. Roll-to-roll production of 30-inch graphene films for transparent electrodes. Nature Nanotech. 5, 574–578 (2010).
Feng, C. et al. Flexible, stretchable, transparent conducting films made from superaligned carbon nanotubes. Adv. Funct. Mater. 20, 885–891 (2010).
Hu, L. B., Yuan, W., Brochu, P., Gruner, G. & Pei, Q. B. Highly stretchable, conductive, and transparent nanotube thin films. Appl. Phys. Lett. 94, 161108 (2009).
Yu, Z. B., Niu, X. F., Liu, Z. & Pei, Q. B. Intrinsically stretchable polymer light-emitting devices using carbon nanotube-polymer composite electrodes. Adv. Mater. 23, 3989–3994 (2011).
Chun, K. Y. et al. Highly conductive, printable and stretchable composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver. Nature Nanotech. 5, 853–857 (2010).
Yu, C. J., Masarapu, C., Rong, J. P., Wei, B. Q. & Jiang, H. Q. Stretchable supercapacitors based on buckled single-walled carbon nanotube macrofilms. Adv. Mater. 21, 4793–4797 (2009).
Bekyarova, E. et al. Electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotube networks. J. Am. Chem. Soc 127, 5990–5995 (2005).
Hu, L. B., Hecht, D. S. & Gruner, G. Carbon nanotube thin films: fabrication, properties, and applications. Chem. Rev. 110, 5790–5844 (2010).
Nosho, Y., Ohno, Y., Kishimoto, S. & Mizutani, T. The effects of chemical doping with F(4)TCNQ in carbon nanotube field-effect transistors studied by the transmission-line-model technique. Nanotechnology 18, 415202 (2007).
Khang, D. Y. et al. Molecular scale buckling mechanics in individual aligned single-wall carbon nanotubes on elastomeric substrates. Nano Lett. 8, 124–130 (2008).
Kubo, M. et al. Stretchable microfluidic radiofrequency antennas. Adv. Mater. 22, 2749–2752 (2010).
Cao, Q. & Rogers, J. A. Ultrathin films of single-walled carbon nanotubes for electronics and sensors: a review of fundamental and applied aspects. Adv. Mater. 21, 29–53 (2009).
Jackman, R. J., Duffy, D. C., Cherniavskaya, O. & Whitesides, G. M. Using elastomeric membranes as dry resists and for dry lift-off. Langmuir 15, 2973–2984 (1999).
So, J. H. et al. Reversibly deformable and mechanically tunable fluidic antennas. Adv. Funct. Mater. 19, 3632–3637 (2009).
Dickey, M. D. et al. Eutectic gallium-indium (EGaIn): a liquid metal alloy for the formation of stable structures in microchannels at room temperature. Adv. Funct. Mater. 18, 1097–1104 (2008).
Mannsfeld, S. C. B. et al. Highly sensitive flexible pressure sensors with microstructured rubber dielectric layers. Nature Mater. 9, 859–864 (2010).
Takei, K. et al. Nanowire active-matrix circuitry for low-voltage macroscale artificial skin. Nature Mater. 9, 821–826 (2010).
Someya, T. et al. Conformable, flexible, large-area networks of pressure and thermal sensors with organic transistor active matrixes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12321–12325 (2005).
Sokolov, A. N., Tee, B. C.-K., Bettinger, C. J., Tok, J. B.-H. & Bao, Z. N. Chemical and engineering approaches to enable organic field-effect transistors for electronic skin applications. Acc. Chem. Res. (in the press).
Roberts, M. E., Sokolov, A. N. & Bao, Z. N. Material and device considerations for organic thin-film transistor sensors. J. Mater. Chem. 19, 3351–3363 (2009).
This work was supported by a US Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowship (to D.J.L.) and the Stanford Global Climate and Energy Program. B.C-K.T. was supported by the Singapore National Science Scholarship from the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR). The authors thank V. Ballarotto for helpful discussions and J.A. Bolander for writing code for the apparatus used for electromechanical measurements.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Lipomi, D., Vosgueritchian, M., Tee, BK. et al. Skin-like pressure and strain sensors based on transparent elastic films of carbon nanotubes. Nature Nanotech 6, 788–792 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2011.184
The nonlinear synergistic enhancement electric conductive effect in polymer-matrix composites containing hybrid fillers of carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoplatelets
Computational Materials Science (2021)
Polymer Molecular Engineering Enables Rapid Electron/Ion Transport in Ultra‐Thick Electrode for High‐Energy‐Density Flexible Lithium‐Ion Battery
Advanced Functional Materials (2021)
Design of Non-dimensional Parameters in Stretchable Microstrip Antennas with Coupled Mechanics-Electromagnetics
Materials & Design (2021)
Surface Modification of Gallium‐Based Liquid Metals: Mechanisms and Applications in Biomedical Sensors and Soft Actuators
Advanced Intelligent Systems (2021)
Lab on a Chip (2021)