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Process Enables Self-Powered Paper-Based Electronics

By Purdue University

September 2, 2020

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Innovators from Purdue University hope their new technology can help transform paper sheets from a notebook into a music player interface and make food packaging interactive.

Purdue engineers developed a simple printing process that renders any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad, or other easy-to-use human-machine interfaces. They describe the technology in "Moisture-Insensitive, Self-Powered Paper-Based Flexible Electronics," published in the journal Nano Energy. Videos showing this technology are available at https://youtu.be/TfA0d8IpjWU, https://youtu.be/J0iCxjicJIQ, and https://youtu.be/c9E6vXYtIw0.

"This is the first time a self-powered paper-based electronic device is demonstrated," says Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in Purdue's School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue's College of Engineering. "We developed a method to render paper repellent to water, oil, and dust by coating it with highly fluorinated molecules. This omniphobic coating allows us to print multiple layers of circuits onto paper without getting the ink to smear from one layer to the next one."

Martinez says this innovation facilitates the fabrication of vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, since they harvest energy from their contact with the user.

The technology is compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes and could be implemented to rapidly convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface, the researchers say.

"I envision this technology to facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to properly identify themselves as the owner of the package," Martinez says. "Additionally, our group demonstrated that simple paper sheets from a notebook can be transformed into music player interfaces for users to choose songs, play them, and change their volume."

The Nano Energy paper is authored by Martinez, Marina Sala de Medeiros, and Daniela Chanci.

Martinez and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of his technologies related to robots and other design innovations. 


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