The brains over at Xerox have just developed a new type of ink that is so much more than the typical kind we see today. The ink can conduct electricity so that it can be used to put electronic circuits on top of things such as plastic, textiles or film. But what does this mean for us? It means that soon we will be able to bend or even wear our electronics and even print out a gadget on a plastic sheet the same way you print out a document.
There has always been a problem with trying to incorporate this technology. Silicon chips have always been too heavy and expensive to be able to be used in lightweight devices. However, Xerox has solved this problem by using lighter materials. Xerox also plans to sell these materials to other businesses that have a vested interest in making wearable electronics.
With a plastic, you can unroll it into a sheet and deposit electronic circuitry onto it. This allows you to build it up layer by layer. In order for it to o work you need a conductive link, something that contains metal and is also able to be sprayed or printed on. This is where Xerox steps in. They created a silver ink that melts at 140 degrees Celsius. Typically metal melts at 1,000 degrees Celsius. Plastic melts at 150 degrees so an ink that is laid on top of plastic can not melt at a higher temperature or the plastic will melt.
According to Angele Boyd, an analyst with IDC, "This opens a whole new world for electronics. With printable electronics, the future of electronics will include plastics and fabrics. The Xerox technology opens up opportunities for lower cost applications in traditional electronics and for new applications around plastics and fabric."
This silver ink and electronics on plastics could be used to build things like plastic electronic book readers like one that is being built by Plastic Logic. Flexible eReaders would be more flexible than traditional ones and thus would be less susceptible to damage. The would also be extremely lightweight. The possibilities with this technology is endless. You could potentially weave a computer into your clothing or make smart boxes for pills to tell if they are safe or tampered with in any way.
This technology has been a long time coming. Scientists have been dreaming about it for ages and Xerox has been working on it for the past 8 years. but Xerox isn't alone in their quest for technology like this. Hewlett-Packard has also been researching this for the past 10 years. According to Xerox, it has been able to create lightweight and cheap components necessary to print circuits on plastics. Xerox has already created a cheap and lightweight conductor, semiconductor and a dielectric element.
The circuits for these plastic chips will be able to be printed by printers just like a document without the necessary use of a clean room like you have to use now. Xerox has already made research samples of the product and is in talks with different manufacturers who could potentially use plastic electronics. Aside from what has already been mentioned, the plastic circuits could be used to make things like light and flexible signs, solar cells, low-cost radio frequency identification tags (RFID), sensors or novelty fashions. Whatever they get used for, this is definitely going to be a big step forward in the world of technology and another step closer to that futuristic world we only dream about in movies and books.
Source: Office Product News