USB flash drives are already common accessories in offices and college campuses. But thanks to the rise in printable electronics, digital storage devices like these may soon be everywhere – including on our groceries, pill bottles and even clothing. Duke University researchers have brought us closer to a future of low-cost, flexible electronics by creating a new “spray-on” digital memory device using only an aerosol jet printer and nanoparticle inks. The device, which is analogous to a 4-bit flash drive, is the first fully-printed digital memory that would be suitable for practical use in simple electronics such as environmental sensors or RFID tags. And because it is jet-printed at relatively low temperatures, it could be used to build programmable electronic devices on bendable materials like paper, plastic or fabric.
Duke University researchers have developed a new “spray-on” digital memory (upper left) that could be used to build programmable electronics on flexible materials like paper, plastic or fabric. They used LEDS to demonstrate a simple application.
“We have all of the parameters that would allow this to be used for a practical application, and we’ve even done our own little demonstration using LEDs,” said Duke graduate student Matthew Catenacci, who describes the device in a paper published online in the Journal of Electronic Materials. At the core of the new device, which is about the size of a postage stamp, is a new copper-nanowire-based printable material that is capable of storing digital information.
“Memory is kind of an abstract thing, but essentially it is a series of ones and zeros which you can use to encode information,” said Benjamin Wiley, an associate professor of chemistry at Duke and an author on the paper.