Composites of conducting polymers offer a broad spectrum of materials for interfacing electronic devices with biological systems. Particularly, material systems based on poly(styrenesulfonate) doped poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT:PSS) have found applications in many bioelectronic devices as biosensitive transistors, controlled drug delivery media, and strain, temperature, and humidity sensors. The biocompatibility, intercoupled electronic and ionic conductivity, and air stable electrical properties render PEDOT:PSS based material systems indispensable for bioelectronics. However, these materials are commonly used in thin film form since freestanding films of pristine PEDOT:PSS are considered mechanically brittle compared to biological tissues, and unlike biological systems these conductive films cannot restore/heal their physical properties after excessive mechanical deformation. Here we report conductive biocomposites of PEDOT:PSS and tandem repeat proteins with the ability to self-heal once plasticized via water. The tandem repeat proteins acquired from squid ring teeth (SRT) induce structural effects on PEDOT:PSS including improved crystallinity and formation of fibrous network structures. These structural effects lead to electrical conductivity values reaching 120 S/cm for biocomposites with SRT protein concentrations below 20 wt %, which exceeds the conductivity of pristine PEDOT:PSS (∼100 S/cm). More importantly, tandem proteins facilitate consistent self-healing of freestanding biocomposites with SRT protein concentrations beyond 40 wt %. These robust biocomposites with high electrical conductivity and the ability to self-heal can find applications in numerous soft electronic systems spanning from implantable, transient, and epidermal electronics to electronic textiles.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Biochemistry, medical