Energy harvested from human body movement can produce continuous, stable energy to portable electronics and implanted medical devices. The energy harvesters need to be light, small, inexpensive, and highly portable. Here we report a novel biocompatible device made of poly (vinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene) (PVDF-HFP) nanofibers on flexible substrates. The nanofibers are prepared with electrospinning followed by a stretching process. This results in aligned nanofibers with diameter control. The assembled device demonstrates high mechanical-to-electrical conversion performance, with stretched PVDF-HFP nanofibers outperforming regular electrospun samples by more than 10 times. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) reveals that the stretched nanofibers have a higher β phase content, which is the critical polymorph that enables piezoelectricity in polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is initially selected as the substrate material for its low cost, high flexibility, and rapid prototyping capability. Bombyx Mori silkworm silk fibroin (SF) and its composites are investigated as promising alternatives due to their high strength, toughness, and biocompatibility. A composite of silk with 20% glycerol demonstrates higher strength and larger ultimate strain than PDMS. With the integration of stretched electrospun PVDF-HFP nanofibers and flexible substrates, this pilot study shows a new pathway for the fabrication of biocompatible, skin-mountable energy devices.
Najjar, R., Luo, Y., Jao, D., Brennan, D., Xue, Y., Beachley, V., Hu, X., Xue, W. (2017). Biocompatible Silk/Polymer Energy Harvesters Using Stretched PVDF-HFP Nanofibers. Polymers 9(10), 479.