Researchers at Iowa State University, along with collaborators at Rice University, Ames Laboratory and Lehigh University, have designed a new graphene printing technology that can produce electronic circuits that are low-cost, flexible, highly conductive and water repellent. The scientists explain that this technology could enable self-cleaning wearable/washable electronics that are resistant to stains, or ice and biofilm formation.
“We’re taking low-cost, inkjet-printed graphene and tuning it with a laser to make functional materials,” said authors of the paper. The work describes how the team used inkjet printing technology to create electric circuits on flexible materials. In this case, the ink is flakes of graphene. The printed flakes, however, aren’t highly conductive and have to be processed to remove non-conductive binders and weld the flakes together, boosting conductivity and making them useful for electronics or sensors. Such post-print processes typically involve heat or chemicals, but the research group developed a rapid-pulse laser process that treats the graphene without damaging the printing surface – even if it’s paper.