Title page for ETD etd-12242006-233123

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Maheshwari, Vivek Chandra
Author's Email Address vmaheshw@vt.edu
URN etd-12242006-233123
Title Large area electro-optical tactile sensor:Characterization and design of a polymer, nanoparticle based tunneling device
Degree PhD
Department Macromolecular Science and Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cox, David F. Committee Chair
Saraf, Ravi F. Committee Co-Chair
Davis, Richey M. Committee Member
Esker, Alan R. Committee Member
Wilkes, Garth L. Committee Member
  • Thin Film
  • Large Area Device
  • Nanoparticles
  • Polyelectrolyte
  • Tunneling
  • Self-assembly
  • Electronic Skin
  • Tactile Sensor
  • Electroluminescence
Date of Defense 2006-12-04
Availability unrestricted
Touch (or tactile) sensors are gaining renewed interest as the level of sophistication in the application of minimally invasive surgery and humanoid robots increases. The spatial resolution of current large-area tactile sensors (greater than 1 cm2) lag human fingers by over an order of magnitude. Using metal and semiconducting nanoparticles, a ~100 nm thick, large area thin-film device working on the principles of electron tunneling is self-assembled, such that the change in current density through the film and the electroluminescence light intensity are linearly proportional to the local stress. By pressing a United States 1 cent coin (and also a copper grid) on the device a well resolved stress image by focusing the electroluminescence light directly on CCD is obtained. Both the lateral and height resolution of texture are comparable to human finger at similar stress levels of ~10 KPa.

The fabrication of the film is based on self-assembly of polyelectrolytes, and metal and semiconducting nanoparticles in a layered architecture. The polyelectrolyte layer functions as the dielectric tunneling barrier and the nanoparticles function as the base for tunneling electrons. The assembly of the device can be simplified by incorporating the functionality of the polyelectrolyte and the nanoparticles in a single composite medium. A non-micellar mineralization process for the synthesis of multifunctional nanocomposite materials is also reported as a possible building block for the assembly of tactile sensor. The non-micellar method results in the synthesis of monodisperse semi-conducting nanoparticles templated on polymer chains dissolved in solution at high yield. The monodispersity is achieved due to the beaded necklace morphology of the polyelectrolyte chains in solution where the beads are nanometer-scale nodules in the polymer chain and the nanoparticles are confined to the beads. The resultant structure is a nanoparticle studded necklace where the particles are imbedded in the beads. Multiple cycles of the synthesis on the polymer template yield nanoparticles of identical size, resulting in a nanocomposite with high particle fraction. The resultant nanocomposite has beaded-fibrilar morphology with imbedded nanoparticles, and can be solution cast to make electroluminescent thin film devices. The concept is further modified for synthesis of metal nanoparticles on polyelectrolyte templates with isolated beaded morphology.

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