Engineers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have successfully printed flexible, complex electronic circuits using a common t-shirt printer.
The innovative process utilizes unique materials in layers on top of flexible materials like aluminum foil, plastic, paper in order to print the electronic circuits.
Non-toxic organic materials such as nanoparticles, carbon and plastics are called upon to print the essential components, resistors, transistors and capacitors.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new printing technique is the fact that the NTU Singapore research group has developed a viable way to mass produce cheap disposable electronic circuits, according to Associate Professor Joseph Chang, leader of the NTU Singapore research group.
“This means we can have smarter products, such as a carton that tells you exactly when the milk expires, a bandage that prompts you when it is time for a redressing, and smart patches that can monitor life signals like your heart rate,” said the electronics expert from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
“We are not competing with high-end processors like those found in smartphones and electronic devices. Instead we complement them with cheaply printed circuits that cost mere cents instead of a few dollars, making disposable electronics a reality.”
The printing process for the circuits is fully additive and extremely eco-friendly, a major differentiator from other types of printed electronics.
So far, the NTU team has successfully printed a 4-bit digital-to-analog converter and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags with their innovative process.
Professor Chang said, “Our innovative process is green, using non-corrosive chemicals. It can be printed on demand when needed within minutes. It is also scalable, as you can print large circuits on many types of materials and most importantly, it is low cost, as print technology has been available for decades.”
The NTU team has a lot of interest from venture capitalists and biomedical companies looking to commercialize their invention of printed electronics for biomedical devices.
In fact, the innovation has garnered so much respect that Professor Chang has been recognized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest profession for engineers in the field, as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Printed Electronics.
If the past is any indication, NTU will prosper with printing complex electronic circuits because NTU has had remarkable success translating its research into innovative applications, attaining the No. 1 ranking in the world for industry income and innovation by Times Higher Education.