New Types of Inks and More Power a Possible Future for Printed Electronics

By Steve Anderson May 31, 2013

A combination of special inks and a roll-to-roll printer is posing a new and exciting possible future for electronics developers, as the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) works toward developing the new technology that may very well change many current developments, and make for a few that haven't yet been realized.

The technology PARC's working on is comprised largely of specialized inks and the printers to deliver these inks to a surface and can go into a variety of different applications. Some possible developments include super-thin, flexible batteries, memory chips and transistors, as well as things like sensors, smart labels, light-emitting devices and more. As for how it works, PARC's Program Manager for printed electronics, Janos Veres described the process as using inks to generate electronics, instead of using the current method of etching components from other materials. The inks in question could be comprised of several different materials from molecules and nanomaterials to even very small chips of silicon.

Perhaps most notably here is that what PARC is currently working on has the potential to be easily added to 3D printing technology, in addition to other technologies that currently exist. It can not only create some new technologies of its own, but it can be used to refine older technologies and improve what's already in play.

PARC has a long and storied history when it comes to electronics, especially in terms of printer technology. Itself a division of Xerox, PARC reportedly houses not only the first graphical user interface but also the first laser printer and several other such major developments within its confines. A prototype electronics printer currently resides there as well, with a series of different print heads built into it, each of which able to make a different kind of electronics system.

Yet even PARC admits it will be quite some time before this technology is even somewhat available, likening its current progress to that of transistors in the 1960s. But as the technology advances, more and more uses for it will likely be brought into play.

There are plenty of uses for such technology; considering how flexible displays are making a difference in the construction of portable devices and wearable technology. Now consider the impact if the display is flexible and so is the battery and the memory for the device using a flexible display. Smartphones could get even thinner, and potentially, even smaller. Just imagine a smartphone that fits into a wallet like a credit card!

Again, this is all still very, very early stage stuff. Most any possibility here can't be dismissed out of hand, but any suggested possibility could be later proven lacking in feasibility. That makes printed electronics a very exciting development, and one that will be difficult to not watch.




Edited by Jamie Epstein

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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