© Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society. Flexible electronics has received widespread concern and research. As a most-fundamental step and component, polymer metallization to introduce conductive electrode is crucial in successful establishment and application of flexible and stretchable electronic system. Ionic polymer-metal composite (IPMC) is such an attractive flexible mechanical sensor with significant advantages of passive and space-discriminative capability. Generally, the IPMC sensor is fabricated by the electroless plating method to form structure of ionic polymer membrane sandwiched with two metallic electrodes. In order to obtain high-quality interface adhesion and conductivity between polymer and metal, the plating process for IPMC sensor is usually time-consuming and uncontrollable and has low reproducibility, which make it difficult to use in practice and in large-scale. Here, a manufacturable method and equipment with short processing time and high reproducibility for fabricating IPMC sensors by in situ plasma etching and magnetron sputtering depositing on flexible substrates is developed. First, the new method shortens the fabrication period greatly from 2 weeks to 2 h to obtain IPMC sensors with sizes up to 9 cm × 9 cm or arrays in various patterns. Second, the integrated operation ensures all sample batch stability and performance repeatability. In a typical IPMC sensor, nearly 200 mV potential signal due to ion redistribution induced by bending strain under 1.6% can be produced without any external power supply, which is much higher than the traditional electroless plating sensor. This work verified that the in situ plasma etching and magnetron sputtering deposition could significantly increase the interface and surface conductivity of the flexible devices, resulting in the present high sensitivity as well as linear correlation with strain of the IPMC sensor. Therefore, this introduced method is scalable and believed to be used to metalize flexible substrates with different metals, providing a new route to large-scale fabrication of flexible devices for potential wearable applications in real-time monitoring human motion and human-machine interaction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)