Strain sensors have demonstrated mechanically invisible monitoring of soft-bodied systems that are otherwise challenging for silicon-based rigid counterparts. Incorporating self-healing properties into these intrinsically stretchable sensors promises damage-resistant and damage-resilient sensing capabilities. Examples range from damage detection in spacesuits to alert suit air leakage by space debris during astronauts’ extravehicular activities.
The self-healing function for strain sensors comprises the recovery of the material’s mechanical properties and the restoration of sensing signals. Only some sensors can provide satisfactory sensing performance for dynamic strain measurements required in motion monitoring. The challenge partially originates from the complexity of the self-healing material itself.
Researchers have introduced an autonomous self-healing optical sensing mechanism. The mechanism consists of networks of self-healing light guides for dynamic sensing (SHeaLDS). It combines the damage-resilient properties inherent in light propagation with an intrinsic self-healing material to create an optomechanical sensor. The strain sensor autonomously self-heals and provides reliable dynamic sensing performance. In contrast to electrical signals, which require physical contact for transmission, light propagation in a waveguide via total internal reflection does not. As a result, a self-healing optical waveguide sensor’s sensing signal is intrinsically resistant to damage.
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