New research shows how inkjet-printing technology can be used to mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for “soft robots” and flexible electronics.
Flexible electronics have the potential to revolutionize medicine, and they’ve already shown a lot of promise though the technology is still in an early development. In order to bring it to the next stage, easy and cheap methods for printing flexible electronic circuits are a necessity.
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new inkjet printing technique that can print elastic and stretchable wires onto different kinds of materials at a low cost and at high speed.
From the study abstract in Advanced Materials, Liquid metal nanoparticles that are mechanically sintered at and below room temperature are introduced. This material can be sintered globally on large areas of entire deposits or locally to create liquid traces within deposits. The metallic nanoparticles are fabricated by dispersing a liquid metal in a carrier solvent via sonication. The resulting dispersion is compatible with inkjet printing, a process not applicable to the bulk liquid metal in air.
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Laser Sintering of Liquid Metal Nanoparticles for Scalable Manufacturing of Soft and Flexible Electronics, Liu S, Yuen MC, White EL, Boley JW, Deng B, Cheng GJ, Kramer-Bottiglio R. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2018 Aug 22;10(33):28232-28241. doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b08722. Epub 2018 Aug 9.
Nanoparticles can act like liquid on the outside, crystal on the inside, Science Daily