New printable electronic circuits could lead to lower-cost wearables

Wearables have become extremely popular in recent years, with devices such as smartwatches becoming highly desirable and selling in significant volumes. Currently, the average wearable device is very expensive, putting them out of reach of some people who might benefit from the technology. Researchers have developed new printable inks that could enable high-performance inkjet-printed electronic circuits, providing a pathway to lower cost and high-performance wearable devices.

One major advantage of electronics produced using inks is that they are flexible, allowing them to be used in wearable devices, including health monitors, body warmers, radiofrequency antennas, and electronic textile displays. The electronic inks produce circuits based on two-dimensional materials resulting in circuits that perform as well as commercial organic semiconductors. The inks also show long-term stability in the air, which is currently a challenge to achieve in printed electronics.

The ink was created by a team led by researchers from Imperial College London and Politecnico di Milano in Italy. Using inks that can be printed to create circuits makes them easily mass-produced and significantly less expensive. One challenge that printed electronics traditionally face is stability in air and the lack of high-performance organic semiconductors that provide electrical properties similar to those offered by standard silicon technologies like microchips.

However, the inks created by the researchers show superior electrical properties with high electron mobility and air stability. They also preserve the versatility of the printing technology, making them a significant step forward in the goal of low cost and high performance printed and wearable electronics. The ink is based on two-dimensional materials, including single-layer molybdenum disulfide, which fits into a group of materials known as graphene-like because they are sheets only a single atom thick. The inks can also deal with normal temperatures, and moisture ranges over the long term, making them suitable for everyday wearable devices.