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Magic Ink Offers Full-Color Printing in an Instant

By New Scientist

August 26, 2009

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Engineers at Seoul National University in South Korea have developed M-Ink, technology capable of producing full-color prints in a fraction of a second. M-Ink can be used to produce any color in the visible spectrum and could result in a new technique for fast and inexpensive full-color printing, says lead researcher Sunghoon Kwon.

M-Ink contains magnetic nanoparticles 100 to 200 nanometers across, a solvation liquid, and resin. The nanoparticles disperse throughout the resin, giving the ink a brown appearance, but when an external magnetic field is applied, the nanoparticles instantly realign to fit the magnetic field lines, creating chain-like structures. The regularly spaced nanoparticle chains interfere with incoming light, so the light reflected from the surface is a specific color. Adjusting the magnetic field strength changes the spacing of the field lines, which changes the color. Multiple electromagnets can be used to create curves in the image. The solvation liquid creates a repulsive force between the magnetic nanoparticles to ensure that they do not clump together in the ink.

Once the desired color is created, the nanoparticles can be fixed in place by exposing the ink to ultraviolet (UV) light, which cures the resin. Full-color images are created by using maskless lithography to expose only desired areas to the UV light and repeating the process with different magnetic fields and UV light patterns.

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