SIlver Pen Writes Flexible Circuits

A silver ink rollerball pen can draw working electrical circuits on wood, paper and other surfaces.


(Flexible LED array has hand-drawn silver ink lines)

“Pen-based printing allows one to construct electronic devices ‘on-the-fly,’ ” said Jennifer Lewis, the director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. “This is an important step toward enabling desktop manufacturing (or personal fabrication) using very low cost, ubiquitous printing tools.”

“The key advantage of the pen is that the costly printers and printheads typically required for inkjet or other printing approaches are replaced with an inexpensive, hand-held writing tool,” said Lewis.

The ability to create freestyle conductive pathways enables new possibilities in art, disposable electronics and folded three-dimensional devices. For example, the researchers used the silver pen to sketch a copy of the painting “Sae-Han-Do” by Jung Hee Kim, which portrays a house, trees and Chinese text. The ink serves as wiring for an LED mounted on the roof of the house, powered by a five-volt battery connected to the edge of the painting. The researchers also have demonstrated a flexible LED display on paper, conductive text and three-dimensional radio-frequency antennas.


(SIlver pen in hand)

Fans of the 1974 classic The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle recall the metal paste used by Motie engineers:

"Now the alien's making something. I don't understand what's keeping it... It's got the cover off the control panel. It's rewiring things. A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon along the printed circuitry. I'm only telling you what it looks like, of course..."
(Read more about the metal paste)

From UofI press release; thanks to Eric Manwill for pointing out the article and noticing the connection.

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