3D printed gold nanowalls could revolutionise smartphone manufacture

A Swiss team has developed a way of additively manufacturing “nanowall” electrodes, which a spinoff company will attempt to scale up, and which may have potential for use in touchscreen electronics.

The Engineer reports that Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) team’s method can create grid structures about 80 – 500 nanometres thick out of silver or gold.

The “NanoDrip” method involves printing the metal, dispersed using a magnetic field, in a solvent, which then evaporates. In order to be sufficiently transparent, then film must be very thin.

“Fabricating transparent electrodes requires a balancing act between sufficient electrical conductivity and high light transmittance, both affected by the involved materials, fabrication methodology, and design,” an abstract for the team’s research paper explains.

Lead researcher and Professor Dimos Poulikakos explained that there was a “conflict of objectives” involved.

Transparent touchscreens such as those in smartphones have been made using glass and indium tin oxide. The results of the NanoDrip reportedly offer superior conductivity and thus sensitivity. The process also doesn’t need a clean room, unlike ITO screen manufacture.

ETH spinoff company Scrona is now working on scaling up the technology for industrial use.

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