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Researchers find way to print flexible stretchable silver nanowire circuits

Pic: Yong Zhu

Silver nanowires have been thought to have many applications, including wearable health sensors, due to their flexibility, stretchability and conductive properties. However, there have been significant challenges in using them to print highly integrated circuits.

Now, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a technique that allows circuits featuring silver nanowires to be printed on flexible, stretchable substrates. The advance is said to make it possible to integrate the material into an array of electronic devices. And, because the size of the printing area is limited only by the size of the printer, the technique could be scaled.

“Our approach uses electrohydrodynamic printing, which relies on electrostatic force to eject the ink from the nozzle and draw it to the appropriate site on the substrate,” said associate professor Jingyan Dong. “This approach allows us to use a very wide nozzle – which prevents clogging – while retaining very fine printing resolution.”

The researchers have used their technique to create prototypes featuring silver nanowire circuits, including a wearable electrode for use in electrocardiography.

Professor Yong Zhu added: “Because our ‘ink’ consists of a solvent containing silver nanowires that are typically more than 20µm long, the resulting circuits have the desired conductivity, flexibility and stretchability.

“Given the technique’s efficiency, direct writing capability and scalability, we’re optimistic that this can be used to advance the development of flexible, stretchable electronics using silver nanowires.”

Graham Pitcher

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