Can conductive inks save the newspaper industry?
Dan Scheffer, director of research and development, holds up a test screen print made with graphene. (Baltimore Sun/Kenneth K. Lam / March 10, 2012)
They are a hot little product right now as such inks can be incorporated in circuits that can literally be printed on a printing press. The process generally goes like this: buy a can of conductive ink, pour into an inkjet printer or printing press, and print electrical circuits (and even solar cells) on sturdy paper.
This is one application that intrigued me as I reported a story on Vorbeck Materials, a Jessup, Md.-based manufacturer that is developing different products with graphene, including a new lithium ion battery for electric cars. Graphene is a novel nanomaterial that was discovered eight years ago, and is heralded for its electro- and thermo-conductive properties as well as its strength. In fact, it's roughly 200 times stronger than steel. It is carbon, but in a sheet form that is a single-atom thick.
These little bits of graphene get added into inks and paints that can have a wide range of applications, from printed electronics to toys to batteries.
Printed electronics could be a revenue source for publishers and their printing presses -- imagine loading up a press with conductive ink and printing off reams of electrical circuits. It's being done already, according to Vorbeck.
The music industry may also make use of printed electronics. This SXSW (South By Southwest) interactive festival panel discussed how paper infused with electronics can bring a rich music experience to fans.
Imagine, a paper app embedded with music that you plugged your mobile device into.
Or imagine, a newspaper that you plugged your mobile device into.
Maybe we can still get some use out of those printing presses.