Low-Cost Conductive Paper can Become an Integral Part of Future Flexible Electronics

With roll-up computer screens and various other flexible electronics getting closer to reality, Scientists are bringing about improvements in an increasing number of components that can stretch and bend.

In the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a team of Scientists have reported on another development capable of contributing to this evolution. This new development refers to a cost-effective paper that can be effortlessly manufactured on a large scale.

Researchers make conductive paper by coating it with an ionic gel. (CREDIT: American Chemical Society)

Flexible electronic prototypes that are currently available are built using polymer thin films. However, the cost of these films becomes a factor as they are scaled up. Scientists addressed this issue by turning to paper, which is biodegradable, renewable and a fraction of the cost of polymer thin films. The problem with paper is that it is not conductive, and all efforts to infuse it with this property have been hindered by expense and scalability. Thus, Bin Su, Junfei Tian and colleagues planned to develop a new approach.

The Researchers used a conventional roller process, which is easy to scale up, for coating paper with soft ionic gels in order to make it conductive. An emissive film was placed between two layers of the ionic gel paper. The device glowed blue when a voltage was applied, highlighting that electricity was being conducted. This also showed electrical durability, withstanding more than 5,000 cycles of bending and unbending with insignificant changes in performance. This electrical durability lasted for more than two months. The Researchers state that their conductive paper, priced almost $1.30 per square meter, can be fabricated at a rate of 30 meters per minute, and indeed it could play a vital role in future flexible electronics.

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