Graphene ink enables ‘printable piano’

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Researchers from the University of Cambridge's Graphene Centre have developed a graphene based ink that is said to have interesting properties, including flexibility, optical transparency and electrical conductivity.

In a demonstration of the ink's potential, the team has collaborated with Novalia to create a 'printed piano', whose keys are made by printing the ink onto a plastic film. The keys are connected to a simple circuit board, a battery and speaker. When a key is touched, the change in the amount of electrical charge is detected and a note created. According to the researchers, conductive inks made from precious metals are expensive to produce and process. Graphene, they say, is cheap, environmentally stable and does not require much processing after printing. Graphene inks also top conductive polymers in terms of cost, stability and performance. The team has also developed a graphene based flexible display (pictured) and, according to Dr Tawfique Hasan from the Cambridge Graphene Centre: "Both of these devices show how graphene could be printed on to a whole range of surfaces, which makes it ideal for printed electronics. For example, it might eventually be possible to print electronics on to clothing and to make wearable patches to monitor people with health conditions, such as a heart problem." Another potential application for the ink is in the production of low cost printable sensors, which could be used to track luggage around an airport to ensure it is loaded on to the correct plane or to follow products through a supply chain.