Wouldn't it be fun if you could make working circuits on paper by just drawing them on that paper? That's what Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have made possible. A new type of liquid metal ink that stays liquid in a pen, but dries after being applied to paper, wood or any other writable surface.
The pen looks like a Ball point pen and in fact writes like a silver colored ball pen, except that it has a real silver solution in it. The silver solution dries to leave electrically conductive silver pathways. These pathways maintain their conductivity through multiple bends and folds of the paper. This enables users to personally fabricate low cost, flexible and disposable electronic devices.
|Flexible array of LEDs mounted on paper over a circuit drawn with the Conductive silver pen|
Although the idea of using pens for reparing damaged traces on regular PCB is in use from a long time, the ink solution inside this pen is what makes it unique. It provides a lot more flexibility, the conductive lines you draw will never break even if the paper is folded. People in the past have even modified inkjet printers to print with conductive metallic ink to do the same. The pen gives the users a lot of freedom to draw circuit as it comes in pretty handy.
According to the press release, the next step for the research is to make palette of inks to enable pen-on-paper writing of other electronic and ionically conductive materials may be which are cheaper than silver. The research work was supported by The U.S. Department of Energy.
Well this is definitely something really good for DIY and desktop manufacturing enthusiast.