19 April 2007

Printed Circuits--No, Really!--PRINTED Circuits

This is just one early step in allowing home circuit designers to create their own circuit prototypes at home, using only a printer.
Bidoki loaded two separate chambers in the printer's cartridge, which normally contain different ink, with the metal solution and the reducing agent. Using silver nitrate solution as the "metal ink" and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as the reducing agent proved the most successful combination.

He then programmed the printer to produce a variety of circuits and radio antennas on different surfaces including paper, cotton and acetate, all of which were placed in the printer like a normal sheet of paper.

"One test involved patterning an antenna like that used in a mobile phone on transparent film," says Clark. "It was possible to bend it almost in half without any loss of conductivity."

After a circuit is printed using silver nitrate, vitamin C is overlaid a few minutes later. Water can then be used to wash away other products, leaving the silver behind. Scanning electron microscope images reveal a rough surface of silver nanoparticles.

Being able to "rapid prototype" a design is very useful for home and "garage" designers and inventors. Many other research teams are working on ways to print and spray on many things, including video displays and many other 3-D things.

Such fabricating tools are giving inventors more personal power to test their creations--just as computer software tools allow music and video creators to edit and polish their work. The enabling of writers by computer software and printers to improve their work is so commonplace that it is completely taken for granted.


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