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    MIT printing technique enables flexible circuit stamping

    Functional features at nanoscale dimensions.

    An alternative to photolithography?

    An alternative to photolithography?

    To create electronic devices like those in today’s mobile phones requires complex chemical and physical processes, not unlike those used to capture and develop images with film-based cameras.

    Smart devices start with a series of etched circuit images projected onto a silicon photolithic surface that is then sucessively submerged in a series of chemical, metal, and acid ‘developer’ baths that take away layers of extraneous metal and silicon – and everything that isn’t, say, a microprocessor.

    Think Michelangelo and his masterpiece sculpture, created, as it were, by chipping away everything that doesn’t look like David.

    Now there’s an easier way, discovered by researchers at MIT who report in the current issue of Science Advances that they have invented a fast, precise printing process based on fabricating a ‘stamp’ made from ‘forests of carbon nanotubes’ that is able to print electronic inks onto rigid and flexible surfaces. It promises to make such electronic surfaces an inexpensive reality.

    According to at MIT researchers, the team’s stamping process should be able to print transistors small enough to control individual pixels in high-resolution displays and touchscreens. The new printing technique may also offer a relatively cheap, fast way to manufacture electronic surfaces for as-yet-unknown applications.

    There is a huge need for printing of electronic devices that are extremely inexpensive but provide simple computations and interactive functions, researchers note. The new printing process is an enabling technology for high-performance, fully printed electronics, including transistors, optically functional surfaces, and ubiquitous sensors. 

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    New printing technologies using 2-D materials like graphene could enable new, ultrathin electronic and energy conversion devices. Photo: Sanha Kim and Dhanushkodi Mariappan

    New stamping technique creates functional features at nanoscale dimensions.

    Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
    December 7, 2016
    The next time you place your coffee order, imagine slapping onto your to-go cup a sticker that acts as an electronic decal, letting you know the precise temperature of your triple-venti no-foam latte. Someday, the high-tech stamping that produces such a sticker might also bring us food packaging that displays a digital countdown to warn of spoiling produce, or even a window pane that shows the day’s forecast, based on measurements of the weather conditions outside.

    Engineers at MIT have invented a fast, precise printing process that may make such electronic surfaces an inexpensive reality. In a paper published today in Science Advances, the researchers report that they have fabricated a stamp made from forests of carbon nanotubes that is able to print electronic inks onto rigid and flexible surfaces.

    A. John Hart, the Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor in Contemporary Technology and Mechanical Engineering at MIT, says the team’s stamping process should be able to print transistors small enough to control individual pixels in high-resolution displays and touchscreens. The new printing technique may also offer a relatively cheap, fast way to manufacture electronic surfaces for as-yet-unknown applications.

    “There is a huge need for printing of electronic devices that are extremely inexpensive but provide simple computations and interactive functions,” Hart says. “Our new printing process is an enabling technology for high-performance, fully printed electronics, including transistors, optically functional surfaces, and ubiquitous sensors.”

    Sanha Kim, a postdoc in MIT’s department of Mechanical Engineering, is the lead author, and Hart is the senior author. Their co-authors are Hossein Sojoudi, a postdoc in mechanical engineering and chemical engineering; Hangbo Zhao and Dhanushkodi Mariappan, graduate students in mechanical engineering; Gareth McKinley, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation; and Karen Gleason, professor of chemical engineering and MIT’s associate provost.

    A stamp from tiny pen quills

    There have been other attempts in recent years to print electronic surfaces using inkjet printing and rubber stamping techniques, but with fuzzy results. Because such techniques are difficult to control at very small scales, they tend to produce “coffee ring” patterns where ink spills over the borders, or uneven prints that can lead to incomplete circuits.

    More: here