Patterning conductive PDMS nanocomposite in an elastomer using microcontact printing

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This paper introduces a simple method of embedding conductive and flexible elastomer micropatterns into a bulk elastomer. Employing microcontact printing and cast molding techniques, patterns consisting of conductive poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) composites mixed with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) are embedded into bulk PDMS to form all-elastomer devices. To pattern conductive composites, a micromachined printing mold is utilized to transfer composite ink from a spin-coated thin layer to another substrate. Distinct from previously reported approaches, the printing mold in this technique, once fabricated, can be repeatedly used to generate new patterns and therefore greatly simplifies the device fabrication process and improves its efficiency. Manufactured devices with embedded conductive patterns exhibit excellent mechanical flexibility. With characterization of printing reliability, electrical conductivity of the composites is also shown with different loading percentages of MWCNTs. Furthermore, a simple strain gauge was fabricated and tested to demonstrate the potential applications of embedded conductive patterns. Overall, this approach demonstrates feasibility to be a simple method to pattern conductive elastomers that work as electrodes or sensing probes in PDMS-based devices. With further development, this technology yields many potential applications in lab-on-a-chip systems. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.

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Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering

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