Scientists are reporting the creation of a new nanomaterial which comes in the form of a conductive metal ink. The ink is used to draw functioning electric circuits on flexible electronics that are beginning to be released. This metal ink can even be used to draw pictures or designs on normal, everyday materials like printer paper.
The ink is actually made of tinier than microscopic nano-sheets of copper, which is an incredible conductor. The scientists guide self-assembling copper nanocrystals into forming relatively large (emphasis on the ‘relatively’) sheets of copper. They then take these sheets of copper, coat them with silver nanoparticles, liquefy the mix, and put the metal ink solution into a pen.
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The reason the scientists created this metal ink was to find a novel and cheap way to create an electric circuit on another flexible material. The combination is known as a flexible electronic. Although flexible electronics have been around for some time, they are extremely expensive due to the traditional time consuming and expensive methods of embedding flexible materials with electric circuits. The metal ink changes all that.
By implementing the metal ink, roll up tablets, fold up cell phones, and clothing weaved with electric circuits all become affordable. In fact, as long as you have your hand dandy conductive-metal-ink-pen, your whole world becomes a potential electric playground.
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Just to prove how awesome the metal ink is the scientists drew lines, wrote words, and even made pictures of flowers on normal printer paper using the metal ink pen. They then put small LED lights in the ink, attached a battery to the nanomaterial masterpiece, and viola, the lights lit up.
What’s more, the scientists tested the flexibility and integrity of the ink by folding the aforementioned paper 1,000 times. They even went so far as crumpling the paper, likely in a fit of scientific ecstasy. Even after all this paper man-handling, the metal ink maintained 80-90% of its initial conductivity.
Just imagine, everyone may one day own a simple pen with the power to alter, add to, and eventually when the ink is widespread, make disappear any electric circuit they see. Hey buddy, that’s a really cool shirt, let me make it shine!
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If you are interested in some flexible electronics of your own while we wait for this magical metal ink to be released make sure to check out LG’s new phone, the G Flex. Not only is the phone more comfortable due to being vertically flexible, it is also coated in a self healing material. See all those scratches and nicks in your iPhone? The G Flex can literally heal all that superficial damage, retaining a like-new look and feel. Check out the phone’s healing ability in the video below.