Cambridge method brings “graphene inks close to real-world manufacturing”

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The University of Cambridge has announced a method of rapidly and cheaply printing conductive ink using graphene and other materials.

The Engineer and others report that the method adds tiny particles of graphene to a carrier solvent, and this is added to water-based inks, which are printed out on regular commercial roll-to-roll printers.

Graphene is an atom-thin layer of carbon atoms. Its conductivity and other properties have meant it has offered great theoretical applications, but none have yet been realised on a mass-production scale.

“We are pleased to be the first to bring graphene inks close to real-world manufacturing,” Dr Tawfique Hasan of the university’s Cambridge Graphene Centre, said in a statement, which also says printing speeds of 100 metres per minute have been achieved.

“Being able to produce conductive inks that could effortlessly be used for printing at a commercial scale at a very high speed will open up all kinds of different applications for graphene and other similar materials.”

Phys.org points out the process also works for metallic, semi-conducting and insulating nanoparticles. It could also provide an alternative to silver-based inks, which are expensive at 1,000 pounds (approximately $2,130) per kilogram. The Cambridge solution can reportedly print graphene 25 times more cheaply.

The researchers have cited printed, disposable biosensors, energy harvesters and RFID tags as potential applications. The technology was developed in collaboration with Cambridge-based firm Novalia.