Research ArticleENGINEERING

Electrically assisted 3D printing of nacre-inspired structures with self-sensing capability

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Science Advances  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaau9490
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau9490

Abstract

Lightweight and strong structural materials attract much attention due to their strategic applications in sports, transportation, aerospace, and biomedical industries. Nacre exhibits high strength and toughness from the brick-and-mortar–like structure. Here, we present a route to build nacre-inspired hierarchical structures with complex three-dimensional (3D) shapes by electrically assisted 3D printing. Graphene nanoplatelets (GNs) are aligned by the electric field (433 V/cm) during 3D printing and act as bricks with the polymer matrix in between as mortar. The 3D-printed nacre with aligned GNs (2 weight %) shows lightweight property (1.06 g/cm3) while exhibiting comparable specific toughness and strength to the natural nacre. In addition, the 3D-printed lightweight smart armor with aligned GNs can sense its damage with a hesitated resistance change. This study highlights interesting possibilities for bioinspired structures, with integrated mechanical reinforcement and electrical self-sensing capabilities for biomedical applications, aerospace engineering, as well as military and sports armors.

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