In the realm of flexible sensors, there has been a significant advancement in sensing capabilities over the last decade. However, one of the major challenges that researchers face is the complex deformation that arises from forces or strains acting in multiple directions simultaneously. This complexity makes it difficult to accurately measure the stimuli due to the lack of independent perception of multi-axial forces. The Poisson’s effect of sensing materials poses a significant obstacle in achieving independent perception of biaxial stimuli, as it affects the transverse width of the material under longitudinal strain.

Zero Poisson’s ratio (ZPR) materials, which maintain a constant transverse width even when subjected to longitudinal strain, have emerged as a potential solution to the challenges posed by biaxial stimuli perception. However, the preparation of zero Poisson’s ratio elastomer membranes is no easy feat, given the incompressible property and nearly 0.5 Poisson’s ratio of elastomers.

In a study led by Prof. Hao Wu from the Flexible Electronics Research Center at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, a novel approach to achieving zero Poisson’s ratio structure was proposed. Prof. Wu and his student, Dr. Xin Huang, explored the combination of traditional positive Poisson’s ratio (PPR) structure and negative Poisson’s ratio (NPR) structure as a means to achieve the desired outcome. By combining these two structures, the team found that the overall Poisson’s ratio of the hybrid structure was a superposition of the individual structures’ Poisson’s ratios.

The researchers utilized finite element analysis to estimate the Poisson’s ratio of the hybrid structure and identify the optimal parameters required to obtain the ZPR membrane. The PDMS membrane with the hybrid structure exhibited a significantly lower Poisson’s ratio of 0.07 compared to the PDMS membrane without the hybrid structure, which had a Poisson’s ratio of 0.43. This finding highlights the effectiveness of the hybrid structure in decreasing the Poisson’s ratio of the material.

The ZPR flexible sensors developed in this study have shown promising capabilities in accurately detecting uniaxial stimuli and independently detecting biaxial stimuli. These sensors are able to detect force, strain, and motion status in scenarios involving robotic manipulation and complex deformation. They can accurately measure contact forces between rigid manipulators and grasped objects, as well as detect the normal bending of fingers and unexpected collisions with obstacles.

Additionally, ZPR flexible sensors have the capability to detect the locomotion distance and direction of biaxial soft robots. This unique sensing capability opens up a wide range of applications in health care, human-machine interfaces, and robotic tactile sensing. The potential for ZPR sensors to revolutionize these fields is significant, as they offer a new level of precision and flexibility in sensing technology.

The quest for zero Poisson’s ratio elastomer membranes represents a significant advancement in the field of flexible sensors. The innovative approach taken by Prof. Wu and his team to combine positive and negative Poisson’s ratio structures has paved the way for the development of highly sensitive and versatile ZPR sensors. The potential applications of these sensors in various industries highlight the importance of continued research in this area to unlock their full potential.

Technology

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