Researchers print flexible circuits with silver nanowire ink

February 27, 2018 // By Julien Happich
While inks based on silver nanoparticles have been extensively researched to print circuits, the printed nanoparticles produce circuits that are reportedly more brittle and less conductive than those printed with silver nanowires (AgNW). But spaghetti-like bundling silver nanowires tend to clog printing nozzles. Now researchers at North Carolina State University have reported a novel printing approach they call electrohydrodynamic (EHD) printing, which removed the clogging issue.

In a paper titled “Electrohydrodynamic Printing of Silver Nanowires for Flexible and Stretchable Electronics,” published in the journal Nanoscale, the scientists discuss a novel AgNW ink specifically developed for EHD printing, where electrostatic forces are used to eject the ink from the nozzle and draw it to the appropriate site on a printing substrate.

"The printed features can be controlled by several parameters including AgNW concentration, ink viscosity, printing speed and stand-off distance", they explain in the paper, which allows AgNW patterns to be printed on a wide range of substrates including paper, PET, glass and PDMS. What's more, the new ‘ink’ consists of a nontoxic and water-soluble solvent containing silver nanowires that are typically more than 20 micrometres long, ensuring highly conductive, flexible and stretchable circuits.

Close up of a printed AgNW pattern showing the
dense AgNW network. Scale bar is 50μm.

Examined at the nanoscale, the printed patterns look like densely bundled spaghettis, creating a densely interconnected networks of AgNWs.

The researchers have used the new technique to create prototypes that make use of the silver nanowire circuits, including a glove with an internal heater and a wearable electrode for use in electrocardiography. NC State has filed a provisional patent on the technique.

North Carolina State University -

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