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Cotton, Paper, Glass, and Leaves: Now You Can Print Electronic Circuits On Just About Anything

A new liquid metal printer promises to quickly and cheaply print circuits onto everyday objects.

Cotton, Paper, Glass, and Leaves: Now You Can Print Electronic Circuits On Just About Anything
[Image: Flickr user Creativity103]
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Here’s an innovation that promises to make the physical world way cooler. Researchers at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry in Beijing have invented a liquid metal that can essentially be used to spray-paint electronic circuits onto any surface. This means you can now have electronic circuits on cloth, paper, glass, rubber, plastic, a leaf from your garden, you name it.

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The idea itself isn’t new. We’ve had conducting inks that can achieve the same thing for some time. To work properly, however, they need to be heated up to 400 degrees Celsius or more, which means the material they can be sprayed on has been extremely limited so far.

The new liquid metal can be used at room temperature and is pumped through an inkjet printer to create a fine spray of droplets that settle onto a surface. The tech is cheap and the applications are many. Not only can it be used to prototype circuits quickly in small businesses and homes, it can potentially be built into everyday objects around us. Imagine circuits in your t-shirts that display anything you want, circuits in the wallpaper in your house to embed LEDs, circuits on packaged food that can display a variety of information, circuits in the cover of your Fast Company issue… the mind boggles.

About the author

Pranav Dixit has written about everything from megalomaniacal Bollywood stars to Mughal history as a reporter in New Delhi. But secretly, he has always wanted to cover technology

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