Paper has been pursued as an interesting substrate material for sensors in applications such as microfluidics, bio-sensing of analytes and printed microelectronics. It offers advantages of being inexpensive, lightweight, environmentally friendly and easy to use. However, currently available paper-based mechanical sensors suffer from inadequate range and accuracy. Here, using the principle of supercapacitive sensing, we fabricate force sensors from paper with ultra-high sensitivity and unprecedented configurability. The high sensitivity comes from the sensitive dependence of a supercapacitor’s response on the contact area between a deformable electrolyte and a pair of electrodes. As a key component, we develop highly deformable electrolytes by coating ionic gel on paper substrates which can be cut and shaped into complex three-dimensional geometries. Paper dissolves in the ionic gel after determining the shape of the electrolytes, leaving behind transparent electrolytes with micro-structured fissures responsible for their high deformability. Exploiting this simple paper-based fabrication process, we construct diverse sensors of different configurations that can measure not just force but also its normal and shear components. The new sensors have range and sensitivity several orders of magnitude higher than traditional MEMS capacitive sensors, in spite of their being easily fabricated from paper with no cleanroom facilities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded in part by MN-Reach, an NIH Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub and by the National Science Foundation under Grant EFRI 1830958.
© 2018, The Author(s).