Tianyun Dong 2, Tao Liu 2, and Michael Pecht 1
1CALCE, Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA
2State Key Laboratory of Fluid Power and Mechatronic Systems, College of Mechanical Engineering, Zhejiang University, 310027, Hangzhou, China
Compliant electrodes are a key component in the emerging field of flexible electronics. However, the fabrication of compliant electrodes with balanced properties such as low Young’s modulus, good conductivity, and large deformation still remains a challenge.
This paper developed a high-performance compliant electrode by embedding multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MCNTs) into plasticized polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which act as conductive fillers and elastomeric matrix, respectively, using a solvent casting method. The mechanical properties,
electrical properties, and dispersion characterizations of the compliant electrodes were systematically investigated. The results shows that the Young's modulus of the compliant electrodes could reach 0.1 Mpa at the cost of some conductivity due to the effect of plasticizer,
when the loading of MCNTs was 3 wt.%. Moreover, the electrodes could still maintain good conductivity about 2.7 × 10−4 S/cm and have a high final tensile strain over 300%. Scanning electron microscopy shows that the electrodes contained many uniformly dispersed protrusions,
which indicates the MCNTs are encapsulated by plasticized PVC with good dispersion. Finally, the electrode is applied to the artificial muscle actuator for sensing and actuating. The performance of the electrode indicates that it has potential applications in flexible electronics.