A substantial knowledge gap persists in the material development of smart tires for future self-driving automobiles, which can increase both the vehicles' performance as well as the safety of the passengers. Due to the very high stiffness of conventional strain sensors compared to the softer rubber compound used as the tire tread material, an inaccurate representation of tire deformation characteristics is anticipated. Here, a comprehensive characterization of the electrical conduction and strain sensing behavior of a natural rubber (NR)-based commercial tire tread composite combining the reinforcement of a carbon black-conductive nanofiber dual filler system was carried out for the very first time. The incorporation of as low as 2 wt.% of carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphite nanofibers (GNF) could increase the electrical conductivity of the control compound by two orders of magnitude compared to the control compound. The gauge factor observed was much higher than the value reported for metallic or polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) based stain sensors developed for this application. A 25% enhancement in thermal conductivity was also observed. Thus, the developed composites have the potential to be used as in situ strain sensors so that the problems of debonding and heating differences in the sensor–rubber interfaces in tires can be avoided in future.

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