OK. So I guess I am a geek at heart. I’ve been doing public relations for technology companies for over 23 years. I love technology and telling the world about it. Last week the geek in me hit the jackpot.
Daily, I have the opportunity to talk with some of the most brilliant minds at Xerox – the company’s research and development team. And for this announcement I worked with Paul Smith, who heads up the printable electronics lab at the Xerox Research Centre Canada, to help promote a really cool innovation – a silver ink — that could help make plastic circuitry commercially viable.
So before you scratch your head and wonder what the heck is silver ink and what does it have to do with me …. let me explain.
Think it might be cool to have a medicine bottle instruct a patient of the proper dosage and possibly notify them that they opened it less than 4 hours ago which could indicate it’s too soon to take another dose? Or how about an e-reader that could cost a tad more than a few hard covers, and is the size and weight of a spiral notebook and wouldn’t break if you dropped it? Or how about a sweatshirt that monitors your heart rate and suggests a new jogging route while playing your favorite running play list?
These applications may sound futuristic, but they provide a glimpse at what plastic circuits could do.
There are a lot of reasons plastic circuits aren’t widely used yet – cost, limits of technology etc. And for awhile scientists have been hunkering down in labs all over the world (including at Xerox) trying to solve these hurdles. This new silver ink, along with two other printable electronic components developed at Xerox, address quite a few of these issues.
Ok. Here are a few facts so bear with me for a minute.
Silver is conductive. You need it to make a circuit capable of conducting electricity. Silver melts at a very high temperature (1000 degrees c). If you try to jet this ink onto anything remotely like plastic – it melts. Xerox created nano silver molecules that melt at much lower temperature – less than 140 degrees c. – so voila – you can print it on a wide variety of materials including a ton of different types of plastic.
Another issue that affects the reliability (and therefore the cost) of producing circuits is that they require an expensive clean room environment to be manufactured. With this new invention, you can now print reliable circuits in a normal room – just as if you are printing a piece of paper in your ink-jet printer. How cool is that?
Xerox hopes application developers will think this is cool enough to take these new materials for a test drive. The company is making the ink and other printable electronics materials available as R&D samples.
If you want to hear Paul Smith talk more about the technology behind this news or take a quick tour of the lab (yes, complete with a look at the nano-size ink droplets shooting out of the ink jets – sooo cool ) check out our newsroom. Or read a sampling of coverage at CNET, Venture Beat, Popular Science or PC Magazine for example.
See, I wasn’t the only geek that thought this was interesting.
Laurie Riedman, PR consultant for Xerox Corporation