Screen-printed, flexible, and eco-friendly thermoelectric touch sensors based on ethyl cellulose and graphite flakes inks

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Abstract

Despite the undoubtable interest in energy conversion, thermoelectric (TE) materials can be approached from a temperature-sensitive perspective, as they can detect small thermal stimuli, such as a human touch or contact with cold/hot objects. This feature offers possibilities for different applications one of them being the integration with scalable and cost-effective, biocompatible, flexible, and lightweight thermal sensing solutions, exploring the combination of sustainable Seebeck coefficient-holding materials with printing techniques and flexible substrates. In this work, ethyl cellulose and graphite flakes inks were optimized to be used as functional material for flexible thermal touch sensors produced by screen-printing. Graphite concentrations of 10, 20 and 30 wt% were tested, with 1, 2 and 3 printed layers on four different substrates—office paper, sticker label paper, standard cotton, and organic cotton. The conjugation of these variables was assessed in terms of printability, sheet resistance and TE response. The best electrical-TE output combination is achieved by printing two layers of the ink with 20 wt% of graphite on an office paper substrate. Subsequently, thermal touch sensors with up to 48 TE elements were produced to increase the output voltage response (>4.5 mV) promoted by a gloved finger touch. Fast and repeatable touch recognition were obtained in optimized devices with a signal-to-noise ratio up to 340 and rise times bellow 0.5 s. The results evidence that the screen-printed graphite-based inks are highly suitable for flexible TE sensing applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number025001
Number of pages13
JournalFlexible and Printed Electronics
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • ethyl cellulose
  • flexible substrates
  • graphite
  • screen-printing
  • thermoelectric
  • touch sensors

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