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Small. 2017 Dec;13(47). doi: 10.1002/smll.201702534. Epub 2017 Oct 27.

Designing Metallic and Insulating Nanocrystal Heterostructures to Fabricate Highly Sensitive and Solution Processed Strain Gauges for Wearable Sensors.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Korea University, Seoul, 02841, Republic of Korea.
Department of Semiconductor Systems Engineering, Korea University, Seoul, 02841, Republic of Korea.


All-solution processed, high-performance wearable strain sensors are demonstrated using heterostructure nanocrystal (NC) solids. By incorporating insulating artificial atoms of CdSe quantum dot NCs into metallic artificial atoms of Au NC thin film matrix, metal-insulator heterostructures are designed. This hybrid structure results in a shift close to the percolation threshold, modifying the charge transport mechanism and enhancing sensitivity in accordance with the site percolation theory. The number of electrical pathways is also manipulated by creating nanocracks to further increase its sensitivity, inspired from the bond percolation theory. The combination of the two strategies achieves gauge factor up to 5045, the highest sensitivity recorded among NC-based strain gauges. These strain sensors show high reliability, durability, frequency stability, and negligible hysteresis. The fundamental charge transport behavior of these NC solids is investigated and the combined site and bond percolation theory is developed to illuminate the origin of their enhanced sensitivity. Finally, all NC-based and solution-processed strain gauge sensor arrays are fabricated, which effectively measure the motion of each finger joint, the pulse of heart rate, and the movement of vocal cords of human. This work provides a pathway for designing low-cost and high-performance electronic skin or wearable devices.


metal-insulator heterostructures; nanocrystals; percolation theory; solution process; strain sensors

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