Xerox is claiming a major breakthrough in the field of printable circuitry with a new form of 'silver ink' that could allow electronics to be produced more cheaply and flexibly.
The company has developed an ink that aligns its molecules to conduct electricity more efficiently. This means that electronics circuitry can be printed on new materials without needing a clean room, dramatically reducing costs.
"We will be able to print circuits in almost any size from smaller custom circuits to larger formats such as wider rolls of plastic sheets, unheard of in today's silicon-wafer industry," said Hadi Mahabadi, vice president and centre manager of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.
"We are taking this technology to product developers to enable them to design tomorrow's uses for printable electronics."
Part of the problem with printable circuitry is the high temperatures rewuired by traditional metallic inks, typically more than 800 degrees centigrade. This makes it impossible to print circuitry on some materials, such as plastics.
However, the new ink is liquid at much lower temperatures, about 140 degrees. This opens up new areas for which printable circuitry has not traditionally been suitable.
"For years, there has been a global race to find a low-cost way to manufacture plastic circuits," said Paul Smith, laboratory manager at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.
"We have found the silver bullet that could make things such as electronic clothing and inexpensive games a reality today. This breakthrough means that the industry now has the capability to print electronics on a wider range of materials and at a lower cost."
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