All the Electronics That's Fit to Print

Flexible X-ray imager and actuators developed in California to be described at the AVS meeting in Baltimore next week


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    Credit: T.Ng/PARC

    a) Electonic inks for printing. (b) Inkjet printed shift register circuit. (c) Printed flexible imager.

Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C., November 11, 2014 -- New technology allows you to print electronic devices in the same way your inkjet printer prints a document or photo. Now researchers at Palo Alto Research Center have used this technique to build a portable X-ray imager and small mechanical devices.

"It's a demonstration of how far this technology can go," said Tina Ng of the Palo Alto Research Center. She will describe these devices at the AVS 61st International Symposium & Exhibition, being held Nov. 9-14, 2014, in Baltimore, Md.

Making electronics on conventional silicon wafers can be costly and time consuming. Traditional photolithography methods, Ng explained, are complex. You first have to deposit layers of material, place a stencil-like mask on it, and then shine ultraviolet light to etch away the exposed material. You then repeat the process to create the patterns needed to form electronic circuits and devices.

But in the last ten years, researchers have been developing ways to deposit patterns of metals, semiconductors and other material directly, just like how a printer deposits patterns of ink. The materials are dissolved in a liquid solution, which can then be printed on a variety of substrates, such as plastic, paper and even fabric. When the "ink" dries, the material remains.

As a demonstration of this technology, Ng and her colleagues built a digital X-ray sensor. Using printing techniques, the researchers fabricated flexible X-ray imager arrays on plastic films that are much more portable than the behemoths at your dentist's office. Such a device could be used by doctors in the field, serve as small security scanners or even help soldiers identify bombs in battle.

The researchers are also working on printing an actuator, a simple mechanical device. Unlike typical silicon actuators, the printable actuator is based on solution-processed organic materials and behaves like “artificial muscles”. While they haven't developed specific applications for such an actuator, Ng said, it could be used in conjunction with photo imagers to make adaptive optical parts that tune focal distance, or to make moving mirrors that redirect light beams.

This printing technique won't work for producing the high-end silicon chips in your computers and phones, Ng said. Instead, "we're going for more high-volume, simple but useful systems." In the future, for example, you might be able to print sensors onto clothing or some other device attached to the skin to monitor vital signs—and alert a doctor in case of emergency. Some researchers have also been printing devices to make flexible solar cells; imagine wearing a jacket that doubles as a solar panel. Another possibility, Ng said, is to print flexible antennae for wireless communication.

Presentation #MN+PS-WeA1, "Organic Sensors and Actuators Patterned by Inkjet Printing," by Tse Nga (Tina) Ng, J. Kim, W.S. Kim and K.S. Kwon is at 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014.

Authors of this presentation are affiliated with Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a Xerox Company, in California; Simon Fraser University in Canada; and Soonchunhyang University in South Korea.

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MORE ABOUT THE AVS 61st INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM & EXHIBITIONThe symposium takes place from November 9-14 at the Baltimore Convention Center, which is located at One West Pratt Street in Baltimore, Maryland, 21201. The headquarters hotel is the Sheraton Inner Harbor at 300 South Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland, 21201.

USEFUL LINKSMain symposium website: http://www.avs.org/Meetings-Exhibits/Information Technical Program: http://www.avssymposium.org/Media Center: https://www.avs.org/About/Press-Media-Center Baltimore Convention Center: http://www.bccenter.orgSheraton Inner Harbor: http://www.sheratoninnerharbor.com

PRESSROOMThe AVS Pressroom will be located in the Charles Street Lobby Staff Office of the Baltimore Convention Center. Pressroom hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Your press badge will allow you to utilize the pressroom to write, interview, collect new product releases, review material, or just relax. The press badge will also admit you, free of charge, into the exhibit area, lectures, and technical sessions, as well as the Welcome Mixer at 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday in Ballroom III of the Baltimore Convention Center and the Awards Ceremony and Reception at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday night in Ballroom I-II of the Baltimore Convention Center.

To request free press registration, please contact Jason Socrates Bardi at jbardi@aip.org and Della Miller at della@avs.org.

ABOUT AVSFounded in 1953, AVS is a not-for-profit professional society that promotes communication between academia, government laboratories, and industry for the purpose of sharing research and development findings over a broad range of technologically relevant topics. Its symposia and journals provide an important forum for the dissemination of information in many areas of science and technology, enabling a critical gateway for the rapid insertion of scientific breakthroughs into manufacturing realities. See: http://www.avs.org/About

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