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Print a Working Paper Computer on an $80 Inkjet

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Digital filigree.

Researchers have found a way to print the fine, silvery lines of electronic circuit boards onto paper using ordinary inkjet printers.

Credit: Sensprout

Researchers at the University of Tokyo and Microsoft have developed a method to print the fine lines of electronic circuitboards onto paper using an inkjet printer loaded with ink containing silver nanoparticles.

The researchers say their method fills a void in the capabilities of 3D printers, which can print the casing for a gadget but not the printed circuits that go inside it. They say the ink does not need heat to release its silver, and the particle size, viscosity, and surface tension were just right for it to deposit flat silver conductors onto the paper. 

To turn the nanoparticles into working circuits, the team avoided soldering and instead used a conducting glue to attach components such as resistors and capacitors. The researchers used the technique to develop a moisture sensor that detects rainfall with one circuit and soil humidity with another, transmitting its readings via a printed Wi-Fi antenna. The researchers also created more complex inkjet-printed circuits, with microprocessors and memory chip connectors.

"In 20 years, you really will be able to hit 'print' and make yourself a mobile phone," says University of Tokyo professor Yoshihiro Kawahara.

From New Scientist
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