Potential revolution in graphene-printed electronics

18 December 2018

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Manchester University have found a low-cost method of producing graphene-printed electronics, which greatly speeds up, and reduces the cost of, conductive graphene inks – inviting manufacturing breakthroughs.

Printed electronics offer a breakthrough in the penetration of information technology into everyday life; plus, the possibility of printing electronic circuits will further promote the spread of IoT applications.

The development of printed conductive inks for electronic applications has grown rapidly, widening applications in transistors, sensors, antennas, RFID tags and wearable electronics.

Current conductive inks traditionally use metal nanoparticles for their high electrical conductivity; however, these materials can be expensive or easily affected by oxidisation, making them far from ideal for low-cost IoT applications.

­­The team have found that using a material called 'dihydrolevoglucosenone', more commonly known as Cyrene, is not only non-toxic: it is also environmentally-friendly and sustainable, while also able to provide higher concentrations and conductivity of graphene ink.

Graphene, to specify, has the potential to create the next generation of electronics currently limited to science fiction: faster transistors, semiconductors, bendable phones and flexible wearable electronics.

To quote Professor Zhiurn Hu: “This work demonstrates that printed graphene technology can be low-cost, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly for ubiquitous wireless connectivity in [this] IoT era, as well as provide RF energy harvesting for low-power electronics.”

Said Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov: “Graphene is swiftly moving from research to application domain. Development of production methods relevant to the end user in terms of their flexibility, cost and compatibility with existing technologies are extremely important. This work will ensure that implementation of graphene into day-to-day products and technologies will be even faster.”

Kewen Pan, the lead author on the paper said: “This perhaps is a significant step towards commercialisation of printed graphene technology. I believe it would be an evolution in [the] printed electronics industry because the material is [so] low-cost, stable and environmentally-friendly”.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), who were involved in measurements for this work, have partnered with the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester to provide a materials characterisation service to establish the missing link for the industrialisation of graphene and 2D materials. They have also published a joint NPL and NGI good practice guide, which aims to tackle the ambiguity surrounding how to measure graphene’s characteristics.

To quote Professor Ling Hao: “Materials characterisation is crucial to be able to ensure performance reproducibility and scale-up for commercial applications of graphene and 2D materials. The results of this collaboration between the university and NPL is mutually beneficial, as well as providing measurement training for PhD students in a metrology institute environment.”

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons: in other words, examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships – which are each tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

For more information, visit #ResearchBeacons and www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk/about/ngi.

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