We demonstrate a truly conformal and flexible piezotronic strain sensor using zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires. Well-aligned, vertical ZnO nanowires are grown by chemical vapor deposition on a silicon wafer with a hydrothermally grown ZnO seed layer. The nanowires are infiltrated with polydimethylsiloxane and mechanically transferred from the silicon substrate. Plasma etching exposes the top surface of the nanowires before deposition of a gold (Au) top electrode. The bottom electrode is formed by silver paint which also adheres the sensor to the measured structure. To demonstrate the sensor's ability to conform to complex surfaces, a stepped shaft with a shoulder fillet is used. The sensor is attached to the shoulder fillet of the stepped shaft, conforming to both the circumference of the shaft, and the radius of the fillet. A periodic bending displacement is applied to the end of the shaft. The strain induces a piezoelectric potential in the ZnO nanowires which controls the barrier height and conductivity at the gold/ZnO interface, by what is known as the piezotronic effect. The conductivity change is measured for periodically applied strains. The nonlinear current-voltage (I-V) response of the device is due to the Schottky contact between the ZnO nanowires and gold electrode. The geometry of the stepped shaft corresponds to a known stress concentration factor, and the strain experienced by the shaft is estimated with a COMSOL FEA study. The conformal nature of the strain sensor makes it suitable for structural monitoring applications involving complex geometries and stress concentrators.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors are grateful for financial support from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the College of Science and Engineering of the University of Minnesota. Research is also supported in part by NSF (ECCS-1150147) and by NSF IGERT grant DGE-1069104.
- strain sensor