Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
United Kingdom Hardware Technology Science

UK University Creates First Inkjet-Printed Graphene Circuit 60

MrSeb writes with this ExtremeTech excerpt aimed at the graphene enthusiasts out there: "You can add another crazy characteristic to graphene's ever-expanding list of 'wonder material' properties: It can now be used to create flexible, transparent thin-film transistors. ... using an inkjet printer. The discovery comes from researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, who were trying to ameliorate the lackluster performance of existing inkjet-printed electronics. It's already possible to print standard CMOS transistors using different ferroelectric polymer inks, but the resultant circuit is so slow that it can't actually function as a computer. If graphene could replace or augment the interconnects or transistors, these circuits would be a lot faster — and that's what these Cambridge engineers have done. Furthermore, if you didn't think that was cool enough, the graphene-based ink that they've developed is transparent, too."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK University Creates First Inkjet-Printed Graphene Circuit

Comments Filter:
  • well i think this is a great idea, printable circuits would make it much easier for the electronics hobbiest to build electronics. perhaps with printable circuits people might begin printing their circuits to look like their schematics. On the cons side its this sort of confusing technology that delayed me and i think stopped other people all together from attempting electronics, i was always interested in electronics but whenever i would crack open a commerical device to look at the circuits an
    • Re:Pros and cons (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:56AM (#38173528)

      I can see a rather clever toy being made using this technology.

      Imagine for a moment, that you have a simple robot chasis like hardware platform, with a flat ribbin cable type connector that is really really wide (like the kind that attaches the keyboard inside a laptop, or the ribbon going to the optical head assy of a dvd drive, only much wider.). It is meant to accept all the electronic innards of the robot other than actuators and external ports and battery pack on a printed sheet of slightly textured plastic, that has a commercially inlaid edge connector on one side that fits the really wide flat ribbon connector, and on the other a specially notched corner, or some other orientation feature.

      The sheet is meant to be cleaned, like a dry erase board, but with a special solvent. This makes the sheets reusable.

      The printer loads the sheets, which could be printed on both sides if desired, and prints circuits and traces that lead to the inlaid metal edge connector pads.

      The idea is as a hobby electronics toy for enthusiasts and advanced school children. A kind of "build your own robot" kit with modular servos and sensors that attach to the simplified chasis a little like legos, and with an extremely low cost roll your own logic board that you print on the special plastic sheet. Since the circuit components are all inkjetted, component cost would be minimal: just the cost of the ink.

      Anything from novelty antennas to special logic could be printed on the sheets.

      I could really see such a toy being a fantastic learning aid, especially in a school setting. The limiting factors would be feature size, circuit impedence, and physical realestate on the printed sheet. While probably slower than an arduino, it would offer quite a bit more customization options, especially if it came with some design software that had sample patterns for apus, memory cell circuits, and various logic gates and simple IC units.

      • Since the circuit components are all inkjetted, component cost would be minimal: just the cost of the ink.

        Heh, have you priced any inkjet cartridges recently? :)

        • Considering that graphene is realy inexpensive (you produce quite a bit od it when writing with a standard pencil)...

          You are quite right about the issue though. The idea is to keep that cost low, or the toy wouold be substantially less popular. The idea is to make money on the accessories, not the consumables. (New sensors, actuators, battery p0acks, etc.)

  • UK University??? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't need someone to tell me where Cambridge is.

    • Re:UK University??? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:04AM (#38173364)
      The US also has a Cambridge and built a University there.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Interesting. I wonder where they go the idea?

      • The US also has a Cambridge and built a University there.

        Thanks dbill, that was like really insightful and stuff.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Thanks for the sarcasm, but it's an international forum here and it's not obvious to everyone.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Cambridge University is almost 1000 years old and is one of the worlds best Universities. If it was MIT the title wouldn't be "A US University" would it?

          • It's not "international," it's Americo-centric.

            This is not a criticism.

            And even the high-up fruit that we get on this site might not be aware of the knowledge centres of Airstrip One.
      • Re:UK University??? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MasterPatricko ( 1414887 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:21AM (#38173604) Homepage

        The first president (Henry Dunster), the first benefactor (John Harvard), and the first schoolmaster (Nathaniel Eaton) of Harvard were all Cambridge University alumni, as was the then ruling (and first) governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop.

        • Although Cambridge has given up and now uses the American term in fundraising, they were not in fact U of C alumni (and nor am I, to declare an interest). That's because if you go to Cambridge and graduate, you remain a member of the University for life or until the Senate votes you off, though obviously with no official title and unpaid. Same with Oxford.

          Technically, therefore, Harvard was founded by members of the University of Cambridge.

          The old joke is that graduates of Oxford intend to run the country

      • The real first Cambridge is the UK one. Cambridge, MA, USA was founded by students of the University of Cambridge, UK in the new world. Harvard was established first. Much later, MIT decided to make Cambridge. MA its own home. Despite these two giants, the University of Cambridge is a world leading university. Discounting it as a "UK University???" only shows utter ignorance.
    • It is especially confusing because the University of Kentucky is referred to as UK in the states. Though I guess UK University would be redundant in that instance.
  • by The Clockwork Troll ( 655321 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:01AM (#38173352) Journal

    I hope they are using Genuine EPSON Graphene Inks.

  • Doesn't surprise me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:02AM (#38173356) Homepage Journal

    This was a matter of time, given that they could do regular transistors and graphene is much simpler. What will be interesting, however, is what people do with this. There have been all kinds of interesting attempts at novel engineering (liquid crystal memories, for example) that either never got funded to completion or ended up going nowhere.

    The latter is as it should be. There is no point in research if you know the results beforehand. It is merely fraud to only do what you know will work. The former is typical bigotry against those who actually do the real work in society.

    • Maybe not very well said, but you got good points there...
    • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @09:13AM (#38174222)

      What will be interesting, however, is what people do with this.

      Probably nothing. Inkjets tend to have their jets clog, which in turn leads to imperfections which render the circuit inoperative. While this can in part be helped by printing larger features, the resolution is already pretty low, and that makes the effective resolution - and thus the amount of components you can fit on a paper - even lower.

      In short, in all but the most specialized applications it's better to just get a regular chip.

      • In short, in all but the most specialized applications it's better to just get a regular chip.

        If by "specialised" you mean new, I'd agree with you. I'm sure people said the exact same thing when the CPU first was created, but nobody would consider a CPU specialised any more. What's specialised now could easily become the largest number of chips produced very quickly.

        If this technology pans out as described, these little chips aren't going to replace silicon chips, they'll be used for applications where a

  • by pryoplasm ( 809342 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:41AM (#38173480)

    I like the idea of a transparent circuit, however when it comes to troubleshooting it or trying to find a break in it, transparent might not be the best thing...

    still, interesting. I am wondering if they can add something to the graphene to make it more visible without taking away some of graphenes properties...

    • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:10AM (#38173578) Homepage

      Have you ever tried troubleshooting a microprocessor off the assembly line?

      I think you're thinking in terms of replacing the circuit board etching kits for hobbiests. Sure, transparency would put a minor kink in that use, but not a show stopper.

      (And I'm sure we can both think of cool things to do with the transparency.)

      It would be interesting to know how much various pigments interferred with the electrical properties, of course. Home printing of circuit boards (circuit papers?) would definitely make a lot of projects easier, particularly when the active components can also be printed on, perhaps in the same pass.

      Lo-res LSI.

    • If transparent in visible light, is the circuit visible in UV light or other wavelengths?
  • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:19AM (#38173594) Homepage

    6809 processor on a sheet of paper.

    And could we squeeze in a 6821, and a 6847? (Still lots of NTSC TVs not in the land fills. Intel deserves to die for HDCP.)

    Capacitive keyboard? (Not a whole lot worse than the chiclet keyboards.)

    • Even better: print out an OLED screen along with a fully functional Radio Shack Color Computer. You could play Dungeons of Daggorath right on a sheet of paper.

      I love that machine. I still have one :)

      • by reiisi ( 1211052 )

        Wish I could afford to ship mine across the ocean. :-/

        (Wish I had a place to keep it here. Not sure if my kids would appreciate it, though.)

    • Re:target apps (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @02:12PM (#38175462) Homepage
      "63C09 processor on a sheet of paper."

      There, I fixed it for you. You see the 6309 was the result of Hitachi obtaining a permission to build a 6809 that was a functional clone of the 6809, but had to call it something else other than its being a cmos 6809 chip, and were enjoined from ever saying there was a difference other than the resultant design was in cmos.

      But something odd happened on the way to the foundry. When the 6809's op-codes were put into a map whose x/y was the value of the nibbles, there was quite a number of 'holes', so Hitachi filled them in with enhanced feature op-codes. Op-codes it remained for the users to discover because even when disclosed, Hitachi was prevented from even confirming their existence. Such things as several more accumulator registers (E,F, and Q which meant A,B,E,F combined for 32 bits), and where the 6809 had some mul functions that gave 16 bit answers, the 6309 had a new 16x16 multiply with a 32 bit answer, and a divide of 16 bits into 32 bits with a 16 bit answer and a 16 bit remainder in 39 clocks worst case. Loads and stores could be 32 bits wide, a slight speedup because it skiped an instruction fetch in the middle, and a switchable ability to pipe line the next instruction fetch during an otherwise idle bus cycle which made it about 10% faster because you actually had to turn it off by a write to the MD register.

      The net result for the color computers OS9 operation system was, when combined with some bug fixing, nearly twice as fast at the same clock speed. FWIW, I have one in my 'coco3', running right now. We call it Nitros9 now. Community supported.

      If this 'sheet of paper' can get to a 2 mhz clock speed, I can see newer developments made even easier already.
      A notebook coco3 for instance. Just turn the 'page' to run a different test configuration. :)

      Cheers, Gene
      • Yeah, I thought the 6309 was cool, too.

        But it was not the direction Motorola intended to take the 6809, and may have played a part in their decision to leave the 6809 and return to single-stack architecture in their embedded products.

        OS-9/6809 was cool, too.

        I spent (wasted?) a lot of time trying to build an OS/run-time that combined the position independence of OS-9 with a split stack parameter passing paradigm. The 6809 just didn't quite have enough resources for that. (And the 6309 took the design the wro

        • (And the 6309 took the design the wrong direction for that.)

          Maybe, but having those additional commands and register resources sure made optimizing the os9 code a bunch easier. Enough that it is about twice as fast as os9 was now because we fixed some bugs in the process, then ported the bugfixes back to the 6809 versions. We now build nitros9 for either cpu from the same src's.

          I did the initial and next couple of conversions myself. Plus I re-wrote the serial mouse driver just 3 years ago
          • by reiisi ( 1211052 )

            Well, now I don't remember. Did the 6309 expand DP?

            Anyway, I'd have started by expanded the index registers, to make it possible to directly address a reasonably wide pixel display buffer and such. (Per the 68HC16 or whatever that was/is.) Widened DP to make it possible to reasonably use it to base process local variables in a large process space. Added another index register (and kept the U) to ease direct execution of p-machine or Forth kinds of intermediate code. Stuff in that vein.

            OS-9 is cool, but I ke

            • >Well, now I don't remember. Did the 6309 expand DP?
              No, it was still an 8 bit register.
              >Anyway, I'd have started by expanded the index registers, to make it possible to directly address a reasonably wide pixel display buffer and such. (Per the 68HC16 or whatever that was/is.) Widened DP to make it possible to reasonably use it to base process local variables in a large process space. Added another index register (and kept the U) to ease direct execution of p-machine or Forth kinds of intermediate code
  • Just wondering (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So, will this lead to downloadable (based on open source hardware and OS) devices? And downloadable designs for your devices as well?

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:58AM (#38173706) Homepage

    You could now print an invisible computer onto a piece of paper?

    More awesome than can be described.

    • I can see the teachers now requesting that students subject their paper to powerful EM pules before using it to take a test. Or printing a wifi enabled cameras on the TP in the girls bathroom.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll bet it causes cancer.

    • I'll bet it causes cancer.

      Only if printed on white mice at a circuit density 1000 times higher than normal human circuits.

  • Inkjet printers are pretty much the bane of all technology. I would strongly prefer that they be used as little as possible.
    • You like your OLED display? That's inkjet-printed. I figure that Cambridge University has tamed the Inkjet -- the OLED was discovered there, too.

    • Have you ever used a high end inkjet printer like a Designjet? Or seen an Indigo working? Or even a high end office inkjet printer like a Ricoh Gelsprinter? (Ours is well over 20000 pages so far and has never blocked or thrown a bad page).

      You really cannot compare a disposable bit of plastic with what inkjet technology is capable of. It's like saying that a BMW 5 series is useless for getting anywhere because Chinese kids' tricycles suck.

  • Opens up a lot of possibilities ( once the bugs are worked out ). Not only can you make simple mechanical devices, but now you could create control systems for them too.

    One of these days PirateBay will be more than music and video .. but torrents for actual 'stuff'..

  • The purist in me has a problem with the wording in the summary and first article.... I mean, it's one thing to say that the resultant circuits are too slow for any practical application as computers, but speed would have absolutely no bearing on whether or not computations can actually be performed with it, making the notion of the circuits being too slow to function as a computer a wholly worthless statement that even at best is very misleading, and at worst outright false.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Thunderbird the partial headline read 'inkjet-printed Grap' and so to me I thought it was...
    'UK University Creates First Injet-Printed Crap', but people print crap all the time, what is different about their printed crap?

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva