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Multi-shot printing of conductive tracks using a dry carbon nanotube ink

Andrew Wright (Glyndwr University, Wrexham, UK)

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 18 November 2013




Wearable electronics is an emerging technology predicted to become a 50B$ industry by 2018. Components and circuits will be highly integrated into clothing and other apparel. One crucial factor is the need for highly robust, flexible printed circuit tracks with sufficiently high electrical conductivity. The fact that metal-based tracks tend to suffer from fatigue failure has driven the development of alternative materials. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Alternative materials are organic conductors and carbon nanotubes. The latter has a great flexibility and intrinsic strength. While nanotubes can be solubilised and printed using ink-jet techniques, this usually requires polymer additives. The paper has therefore sought to develop a novel solvent-free dry-ink.


The paper has found that it is possible to directly transfer from a nanotube growth substrate, via a hard print stamp head, onto a flexible rubber substrate and that one loading of the stamp can give many individual prints before exhaustion: the dry-ink stamp face effectively de-layers by a set amount each time a print is made. Many consecutive, highly consistent and uniform prints can be made using this approach. When printed onto natural rubber, the printed tracks are very robust and can be stretched to 100 per cent strain without permanent damage. The electrical conductivity can be improved by a simple alcohol treatment to consolidate the fibers and by iodine doping reaching 38 S · cm−1.


The findings offer an economical way to print highly robust electrically conductive tracks of carbon nanotubes directly onto flexible substrates.



The author wishes to thank Dr Ingo Gestmann of FEI Inc. (Eindhoven) for characterisation of as-grown carbon nanotubes using the new ultra high resolution Verion SEM instrument.


Wright, A. (2013), "Multi-shot printing of conductive tracks using a dry carbon nanotube ink", Circuit World, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 181-187.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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