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Researchers at the Montanuniversity of Leoben print circuits on flexible films.
© Montanuniversity Leoben

If materials are both stretchable and conductive, multifunctional electronic sensor systems can be more easily integrated into clothing or attached to three-dimensional surfaces. To make this possible, a team from the Department of Chemistry of Plastics at the Montanuniversity of Leoben and the Erich Schmid Institute for Materials Science at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ESI) is working with partners from science and industry to develop inks and pastes for flexible films. The results have now been published in the “Journal Chemistry of Materials”.

The special ink is based on special silver compounds. “With this ink, conductive and at the same time stretchable conductor paths could be produced on foils by screen printing. The conductor paths are stretchable by up to 200% – that is unprecedented for such materials,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Grießer. Compared to commercial stretchable screen-printing inks, the developed system for flexible foils has proven to be superior even under cyclic loads, resulting in a variety of application areas: “It would be an ideal material for use in artificial skin of prostheses or robots, for example,” says Grießer. It could also be used in “intelligent” clothing to monitor bodily functions.

The research was carried out as part of the CELCOS project, which was funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Innovation and Technology as part of the FFG programme “Production of the Future”. The aim was to develop new methods for producing metallic nanoparticles without toxic chemicals. The pastes and inks now produced on the basis of a silver complex that is stable in solution can be applied to large surfaces by means of screen printing. In cooperation with Joanneum Research Weiz, AT&S and Human Research, it has already been possible to develop a sensor patch for monitoring cardiac and respiratory activity.

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