Printed electronics is a breakthrough in the field of electrical science, but they can be pricey to make. However, researchers recently discovered that a simple tweak to the shape of nanoparticles can make a huge difference.
Challenges of Printed Electronics
Circuits that are made through the process of printing “inks” and conductive polymers onto various surfaces such as fabric, foil, glass and paper result to very thin and flexible circuits compared to the ones done with the conventional method. But in order to make this, heat is needed to melt the nanoparticles to the ink for good conductivity.
For this reason, the material where the circuits can be printed must be durable enough to withstand the heat. That is why it is not possible to use low-cost materials for the process, thus making this mechanism heavy for the pocket.
To solve this dilemma, researchers from the Duke University looked for ways on how to make printed electronics that would not be too pricey. Fortunately, they have found the solution.
Nanowires’ Exceptional Conductivity
In the study, the team of researchers initially experimented with varying films with the use of silver nanostructures that include micro flakes, nanospheres, and short and long nanowires. The tests showed electrons flow easier through nanowire films effectively that heating is no longer needed.
Since – out of all the structures – nanowires are the most conductive shape, it really is not a surprise. What awed the researchers, however, is its really good conductivity.
According to Benjamin Wiley, Duke’s assistant chemistry professor, the nanowires “had a 4,000 times higher conductivity” compared to the more commonly used silver nanoparticles that are usually found in RFID tags’ printed antennas. With that, the problem for the high cost of printed electronics is solved since “cheaper plastics or paper” can be used sans the high temperature.
Spectrum of Applications
The more affordable cost would open avenues to more explorations of its potential applications. The results of the study were published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
The researchers stated that these new type of printed electronics could surpass smart packaging. In fact, other applications that are already envisioned by the scientists include amplifiers, batteries, LEDs, printed displays, solar cells and touch screens. Additionally, implantable bio-electronic devices are among the anticipated utilizations of the tech.
As of now, the team is already experimenting on working with aerosol jets to print the silver nanowire inks in usable circuits. Indeed, the sky is the limit for the many uses that nanoparticles alleviate in today and the future’s innovations.