Tag Archives: printable electronics

2D printed transistors in Ireland

2D transistors seem to be a hot area for research these days. In Ireland, the AMBER Centre has announced a transistor consisting entirely of 2D nanomaterials in an April 6, 2017 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers in AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science research centre hosted in Trinity College Dublin, have fabricated printed transistors consisting entirely of 2-dimensional nanomaterials for the first time. These 2D materials combine exciting electronic properties with the potential for low-cost production.

This breakthrough could unlock the potential for applications such as food packaging that displays a digital countdown to warn you of spoiling, wine labels that alert you when your white wine is at its optimum temperature, or even a window pane that shows the day’s forecast. …

An April 7, 2017 AMBER Centre press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

Prof Jonathan Coleman, who is an investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, said, “In the future, printed devices will be incorporated into even the most mundane objects such as labels, posters and packaging.

Printed electronic circuitry (constructed from the devices we have created) will allow consumer products to gather, process, display and transmit information: for example, milk cartons could send messages to your phone warning that the milk is about to go out-of-date.

We believe that 2D nanomaterials can compete with the materials currently used for printed electronics. Compared to other materials employed in this field, our 2D nanomaterials have the capability to yield more cost effective and higher performance printed devices. However, while the last decade has underlined the potential of 2D materials for a range of electronic applications, only the first steps have been taken to demonstrate their worth in printed electronics. This publication is important because it shows that conducting, semiconducting and insulating 2D nanomaterials can be combined together in complex devices. We felt that it was critically important to focus on printing transistors as they are the electric switches at the heart of modern computing. We believe this work opens the way to print a whole host of devices solely from 2D nanosheets.”

Led by Prof Coleman, in collaboration with the groups of Prof Georg Duesberg (AMBER) and Prof. Laurens Siebbeles (TU Delft,Netherlands), the team used standard printing techniques to combine graphene nanosheets as the electrodes with two other nanomaterials, tungsten diselenide and boron nitride as the channel and separator (two important parts of a transistor) to form an all-printed, all-nanosheet, working transistor.

Printable electronics have developed over the last thirty years based mainly on printable carbon-based molecules. While these molecules can easily be turned into printable inks, such materials are somewhat unstable and have well-known performance limitations. There have been many attempts to surpass these obstacles using alternative materials, such as carbon nanotubes or inorganic nanoparticles, but these materials have also shown limitations in either performance or in manufacturability. While the performance of printed 2D devices cannot yet compare with advanced transistors, the team believe there is a wide scope to improve performance beyond the current state-of-the-art for printed transistors.

The ability to print 2D nanomaterials is based on Prof. Coleman’s scalable method of producing 2D nanomaterials, including graphene, boron nitride, and tungsten diselenide nanosheets, in liquids, a method he has licensed to Samsung and Thomas Swan. These nanosheets are flat nanoparticles that are a few nanometres thick but hundreds of nanometres wide. Critically, nanosheets made from different materials have electronic properties that can be conducting, insulating or semiconducting and so include all the building blocks of electronics. Liquid processing is especially advantageous in that it yields large quantities of high quality 2D materials in a form that is easy to process into inks. Prof. Coleman’s publication provides the potential to print circuitry at extremely low cost which will facilitate a range of applications from animated posters to smart labels.

Prof Coleman is a partner in Graphene flagship, a €1 billion EU initiative to boost new technologies and innovation during the next 10 years.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

All-printed thin-film transistors from networks of liquid-exfoliated nanosheets by Adam G. Kelly, Toby Hallam, Claudia Backes, Andrew Harvey, Amir Sajad Esmaeily, Ian Godwin, João Coelho, Valeria Nicolosi, Jannika Lauth, Aditya Kulkarni, Sachin Kinge, Laurens D. A. Siebbeles, Georg S. Duesberg, Jonathan N. Coleman. Science  07 Apr 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6333, pp. 69-73 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal4062

This paper is behind a paywall.

Trimming your electronics to size

It’s disconcerting to think that one might be able to trim down one’s electronic equipment at will but researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics (Germany) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated that possibility,

An Oct. 8, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily describes this work which was presented today (Oct. 10, 2013) at  the ACM UIST conference in Scotland,

Today the researchers are presenting their work at the conference “User Interface and Technology” (UIST) in St. Andrews, Scotland.

“Imagine a kid takes our sensor film and cuts out a flower with stem and leaves. If you touch the blossom with a finger, you hear the buzzing of a bumblebee,” Jürgen Steimle says. He reports that programs and apps are easily imaginable to help parents connect touching a sensor film with the suitable sound effect. Steimle, 33, has a doctoral degree in computer science and is doing research at the Max-Planck Institute for Informatics. He also heads the Embodied Interaction research group at the Cluster of Excellence on Multimodal Computing and Interaction.

Simon Olberding is the doctoral candidate and the lead developer of the new sensor. He sees a further application of the new technology in so-called interactive walls used for discussions and brainstorming. “So far, such a wall frays and scuffs quickly as we hammer nails into it, stick notes or posters on it, and damage it while removing them. By customizing and pasting on our new sensor you can make every surface interactive no matter if it is the wristband of a watch, a cloth on a trade fair table, or wallpaper,” Olberding says.

As basic technology the scientists use so-called “printed electronics”. This term summarizes electrical components and devices which are printed. The approach is similar to that of inkjet printers. Instead of printing with normal ink, electrically-functional electronic ink is printed on flexible, thin films (so-called substrates). “The factory costs are so low that printing our DIN A4 film on our special printer in the lab costs us about one US dollar”, Steimle says.

The Oct. 8, 2013 Universität des Saarlandes (Saarland University) news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes how the researchers solved the problem of creating a system robust enough to withstand being cut,

But you need more than printed electronics to make a sensor robust against cuts, damage, and removed areas. So far the circuit layout of a multi-touch sensor has been similar to graph paper. The wires run horizontally, vertically, and parallel to each other. At the intersection of one parallel and one horizontal layer you find the touch-sensitive electrodes. Via the wires they are connected to a controller. This type of layout requires only a minimal number of wires, but is not robust. Since each wire addresses several electrodes, a small cut has a huge effect: many electrodes become unusable and possibly large sensor areas do not work anymore. “It was not easy to find an alternative layout, robust enough for our approach”, Olberding says. They took their inspiration from nature, looking at the human nerve system and fungal root networks, and thus came up with two basic layouts. The so-called star topology has the controller in the center. It is connected to every electrode separately. The so-called tree topology also has the controller in its center connected to each electrode separately. But the wires are bundled similarly to a tree structure. They all run through a vertical line in the middle and then branch off to reach their electrodes.

The scientists found out that the star topology supports often-used basic forms like triangles, rectangles, or ovals best. Furthermore, it is suitable for shapes commonly used for crafts, like stars, clouds, or hearts. In contrast, with the tree topology it is possible to cut out whole areas. The researchers were also able to combine both layouts in a space-saving way, so that the sensor supports all basic forms.

“We assume that printed sensors will be so inexpensive that multi-touch sensing capability will become an inherent part of the material. Users can take it to create interactive applications or just to write on it”, Steimle explains. This vision is not so far away, as a prediction from the “Organic and Printed Electronic Association” shows. The international industry association forecast that flexible consumer electronics will be available for end-users between the years 2017 and 2020.

Here’s a link to the unpublished paper,

A Cuttable Multi-touch Sensor by Simon Olberding, Nan-Wei Gong,John Tiab, Joseph A. Paradiso,  and Jürgen Steimle.