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Electronics printed on paper and cardboard

New technology enabling electronics to be printed on paper and cardboard could open massive new markets for printers.

Research by Swedish organic electronics scientist Professor Magnus Berggren allows electronics like sensors displays and antennas to be printed cheaply, quickly and in large quantities with potentially big profits.

Berggren’s contribution to the emerging technology was acknowledged with the Marcus Wallenberg Prize in Stockholm by the Swedish King, for his pioneering research, contributions to fundamental research, and a number of applications of electronics on paper.

Berggren’s research has developed ion-based electrochemical transistors that work at low voltage and are simple to print on even raw surfaces like paper.

It will allow people to connect to and communicate with many everyday items in unprecedented ways.

Applications include displays that show changes to best-before dates on milk cartons left out of the fridge, or whether food in the freezer has defrosted; warnings of whether a muesli bar contains nuts; and a strip of paper to check whether your sore throat is caused by bacteria.

Market assessors estimate between five and 10 trillion devices will be connected to the internet within 10 years in comparison to today’s about 15 billion.

Berggren has also developed organic bioelectronics using the same technology to enable communication between biological systems and electronics for medical and private use to aid health care.

He says the products being printed on paper can be recycled after use.


Copper shines as flexible conductor

Bend them, stretch them, twist them, fold them: modern materials that are light, flexible and highly conductive have extraordinary technological potential, whether as artificial skin or electronic paper. Making such concepts affordable enough for general use remains a challenge but a new way of working with copper nanowires and a PVA "nano glue" could be a game-changer.

Previous success in the field of ultra-lightweight "aerogel monoliths" has largely relied on the use of precious gold and silver nanowires.

By turning instead to copper, both abundant and cheap, researchers at Monash University and the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication have developed a way of making flexible conductors cost-effective enough for commercial application.

"Aerogel monoliths are like kitchen sponges but ours are made of ultra fine copper nanowires, using a fabrication process called freeze drying," said lead researcher Associate Professor Wenlong Cheng, from Monash University's Department of Chemical Engineering. "The copper aerogel monoliths are conductive and could be further embedded into polymeric elastomers - extremely flexible, stretchable materials - to obtain conducting rubbers."

Despite its conductivity, copper's tendency to oxidation and the poor mechanical stability of copper nanowire aerogel monoliths mean its potential has been largely unexplored. The researchers found that adding a trace amount of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) to their aerogels substantially improved their mechanical strength and robustness without impairing their conductivity.

What's more, once the PVA was included, the aerogels could be used to make electrically conductive rubber materials without the need for any prewiring. Reshaping was also easy.

"The conducting rubbers could be shaped in arbitrary 1D, 2D and 3D shapes simply by cutting, while maintaining the conductivities," Associate Professor Cheng said.

The versatility extends to the degree of conductivity. "The conductivity can be tuned simply by adjusting the loading of copper nano wires," he said. "A low loading of nano wires would be appropriate for a pressure sensor whereas a high loading is suitable for a stretchable conductor."


Flexible, printed batteries for wearable devices

      A California start-up is developing flexible, rechargeable batteries that can be printed cheaply on commonly used industrial screen printers. Imprint Energy, of Alameda, California, has been testing its ultrathin zinc-polymer batteries in wrist-worn devices and hopes to sell them to manufacturers of wearable electronics, medical devices, smart labels, and environmental sensors.The company’s approach is meant to make the batteries safe for on-body applications, while their small size and flexibility will allow for product designs that would have been impossible with bulkier lithium-based batteries. Even in small formats, the batteries can deliver enough current for low-power wireless communications sensors, distinguishing them from other types of thin batteries.

    The company recently secured $6 million in funding from Phoenix Venture Partners, as well as AME Cloud Ventures, the venture fund of Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang, to further develop its proprietary chemistry and finance the batteries’ commercial launch. Previous investors have included CIA-backed venture firm In-Q-Tel and Dow Chemical. The batteries are based on research that company cofounder Christine Ho began as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she collaborated with a researcher in Japan to produce microscopic zinc batteries using a 3-D printer.

    The batteries that power most laptops and smartphones contain lithium, which is highly reactive and has to be protected in ways that add size and bulk. While zinc is more stable, the water-based electrolytes in conventional zinc batteries cause zinc to form dendrites, branch-like structures that can grow from one electrode to the other, shorting the battery. Ho developed a solid polymer electrolyte that avoids this problem, and also provides greater stability, and greater capacity for recharging.

    Brooks Kincaid, the company’s cofounder and president, says the batteries combine the best features of thin-film lithium batteries and printed batteries. Such thin-film batteries tend to be rechargeable, but they contain the reactive element, have limited capacity, and are expensive to manufacture. Printed batteries are nonrechargeable, but they are cheap to make, typically use zinc, and offer higher capacity. Working with zinc has afforded the company manufacturing advantages. Because of zinc’s environmental stability, the company did not need the protective equipment required to make oxygen-sensitive lithium batteries.

    “When we talk about the things that constrain us in terms of the development of new products, there’s really two that I lose the most sleep over these days. One is batteries and one is displays,” says Steven Holmes, vice president of the New Devices Group and general manager of the Smart Device Innovation team at Intel. Despite demand for flexible batteries, Ho says no standard has been developed for measuring their flexibility, frustrating customers who want to compare chemistries.

    So the company built its own test rig and began benchmarking its batteries against commercial batteries that claimed to be flexible. Existing batteries failed catastrophically after fewer than 1,000 bending cycles, she says, while Imprint’s batteries remained stable. Imprint has also been in talks about the use of its batteries in clothes and “weird parts of your body like your eye,” Ho says. The company also recently began working on a project funded by the U.S. military to make batteries for sensors that would monitor the health status of soldiers.


Ground breaking collaboration on graphene research

Strategic Energy Resources Limited has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary Graphitech Pty Ltd, has signed an agreement with Monash University (effective from 29 May 2014) to enable the advancement of its unique applications for the new wonder material Graphene.

    Highlights of the agreement are: Term – 5 year rolling agreement SER/Graphitech will have a first right to fund any related research A Licence is in the last stages of finalisation between SER/Graphitech and Monash University in relation to intellectual property (IP) generated from the project titled “Nanotechnology enabled electrochemical energy storage materials from indigenous natural graphite” that was the subject of the 2011 Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Agreement (ref LP110100612)

    This Agreement follows the successful arrangement SER has had with Monash for the past 3 years, where both worked on Graphene Nano technology and super capacitors, under the Australian Government’s ARC Linkage grant scheme. SER and Monash University were the first and only recipients of the grant for graphene research. We will be reporting on the well advanced results of this ARC project soon.

    The project team is headed by Dr Mainak Majumder from the Department of Engineering at Monash University. His main research interests are in graphene-based electrochemical energy storage technologies, functional Nanomaterials and desalination.

    The research projects will focus on generating IP with a view to commercialising products or applications derived from grapheme.   SER/Graphitech will have an exclusive worldwide licence to the research projects IP which will enable Graphitech to sub-licence, develop or sell products emanating from this high tech research.   (Source: Strategic Energy Resources Limited)


440 Companies to exhibit new equipment, technologies and materials at IPC APEX EXPO 2014

The exhibit hall at IPC APEX EXPO® will host 440 companies showcasing new technologies, products, materials and services for the electronics manufacturing industry Tuesday, March 25 through Thursday, March 27, at MandalayBayConvention Center in Las Vegas. Introducing more than 300 new products and spanning 137,600 square feet, the exhibition is the largest for IPC APEX EXPO in five years, and includes 57 first-time exhibitors.

In keeping with the event theme of “New Ideas…For New Horizons,” industry suppliers will present best-in-class equipment, materials, processes and services. Featured solutions include equipment and materials for electronics assembly, manufacturing and test; chemicals, materials and equipment for PCB manufacturing; design software; and printed electronics.

In the New Products Corridor on the show floor, Booth 2290, attendees will be able to view some of equipment, materials and services that are breaking new ground in our industry. Highlighting new products in the Corridor are:

• Blackfox Training Institute, LLC
• Hitachi High Technologies America
• IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries
• Metcal
• Conductor Analysis Technologies, Inc.
• Speedline Technologies, Inc.
• Vi Technology
• Weller/Apex Tool Group

A searchable list of exhibiting companies and the products and services they will showcase is available at

To help attendees maximize their time on the show floor, IPC is once again offering the My APEX EXPO interactive planner. With this free online tool, attendees can view exhibiting company information, product and service descriptions, photos and news releases to find exhibitors that offer the products and services they seek. The online planner also allows attendees to schedule appointments with exhibitors in advance of the show so they can be assured they get the attention they need to get their questions answered and find solutions to their challenges at work.

“With 440 exhibitors, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure you have time to see the solutions that will provide the most benefit to your company,” said Alicia Balonek, senior director of trade shows & events for IPC. “MY APEX EXPO is a convenient way for attendees put together a plan, allowing them to make the most of their time in the exhibit hall.”


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