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Water-based and biocompatible 2D inks for printed electronics

30 January 2017

Researchers produced water-based and inkjet printable 2D material inks, which could bring 2D crystal heterostructures from the lab into real-world products.

Examples include efficient light detectors, and devices that are able to store information encoded in binary form. The University of Manchester has worked in collaboration with the University of Pisa.

Graphene is the world’s first 2D material: 200 times stronger than steel, lightweight, flexible and more conductive of copper. Since graphene’s isolation in 2004 the family of 2D materials has expanded. 

Using graphene and other 2D materials, scientists can layer these materials, similar to stacking bricks of Lego in a precisely chosen sequence, known as “heterostructure”, to create devices tailored to a specific purpose.

Current ink formulations, which would allow heterostructures to be made by simple and low-cost methods, are far from ideal- either containing toxic solvents or requiring time-consuming and expensive processes. In addition, none of these are optimised for heterostructure fabrication.

As reported in Nature Nanotechnology the team led by Professor Cinzia Casiraghi have developed a method of producing water-based and inkjet printable 2D material inks, which can be used for the fabrication of a wide range of heterostructures by fully exploiting the design flexibility offered by a simple technique such as inkjet printing.

Most notably these inks are also biocompatible, which extends their possible use to biomedical applications.

Prof Cinzia Casiraghi said: “Due to the simplicity, flexibility and low cost of device fabrication and integration, we envisage this technology to find potential in smart packaging applications and labels, for example for food, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods, where thinner, lighter and cheaper and easy to integrate components are needed”.

Daryl McManus, PhD student said: “These inks provide a perfect platform to fully exploit the range of properties of 2D materials by allowing for the first time a precise and scalable method for fabrication of devices of arbitrary complexity utilising 2D materials.” 


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