Conductive hydrogel combined with Ag/AgCl electrode is widely used in the acquisition of bio-signals. However, the high adhesiveness of current commercial hydrogel causes human skin allergies and pruritus easily after wearing hydrogel for electrodes for a long time. In this paper, a novel conductive hydrogel with good mechanical and conductive performance was prepared using polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), polyethylene glycol (PEG), and graphene oxide (GO) nanoparticles. A cyclic freezing⁻thawing method was employed under processing conditions of -40 °C (8 h) and 20 °C (4 h) separately for three cycles in sequence until a strong conductive hydrogel, namely, PVA/PEG/GO gel, was obtained. Characterization (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, scanning electron microscopy) results indicated that the assembled hydrogel was successfully prepared with a three-dimensional network structure and, thereafter, the high strength and elasticity due to the complete polymeric net formed by dense hydrogen bonds in the freezing process. The as-made PVA/PEG/GO hydrogel was then composited with nonwoven fabric for electrocardiogram (ECG) electrodes. The ECG acquisition data indicated that the prepared hydrogel has good electro-conductivity and can obtain stable ECG signals for humans in a static state and in motion (with a small amount of drift). A comparison of results indicated that the prepared PVA/PEG/GO gel obtained the same quality of ECG signals with commercial conductive gel with fewer cases of allergies and pruritus in volunteer after six hours of wear.
Keywords: conductive polymeric hydrogel; cyclic freezing-thawing method; electrocardiogram signal; mechanical performance.