Engineering 101

New Ink Can Print Flexible Energy Storage Components in Any Shape

By Ruth Seeley


Seamlessly incorporating more conductive inks that use nanoparticle silver, graphene and gallium into manufacturing processes has been a two-step approach for the last decade. Used to make the radio frequency identification tags used in highway toll transponders, circuit boards in portable electronics and to line car windows as embedded radio antennas and defrosters, conductive inks created to date have been both difficult to apply to a range of surfaces and not conductive enough.

But researchers from Drexel University and Trinity College in Ireland have created ink for inkjet printers from a highly conductive type of two-dimensional material called MXene. Their work suggests the ink can be used to print flexible energy storage components, such as supercapacitors, in any size or shape.

Babak Anasori, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and co-author of the MXene ink research, said, “For most other nano inks, an additive is required to hold the particles together and allow for high-quality printing. Because of this, after printing, an additional step is required— usually a thermal or chemical treatment—to remove that additive. For MXene printing, we only use MXene in water or MXene in an organic solution to make the ink. This means it can dry without any additional steps.”

MXenes are a type of carbon-based, two-dimensional layered materials and were created at Drexel in 2011. They have the unique ability to mix with liquids, like water and other organic solvents, while retaining their conductive properties. The Drexel researchers have produced and tested MXene in a variety of forms, from conductive clay to coating for electromagnetic interference shielding to near-invisible wireless antennae. The solvent and MXene concentration in the ink can be adjusted to suit different kinds of printers.

MXene was able to print lines of consistent thickness with the ink’s ability to pass electric current varying with its thickness. The printouts maintained their superior electric conductivity, which is the highest among all carbon-based conductive inks, including carbon nanotubes and graphene. And that energy storage capacity helps keep the power on when the battery dies, prevents electrical surges, and can speed the charging process.

Source:  Drexel University


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