Collaboration develops water-based 2D inks for printed electronics

Researchers have developed a method of producing water-based and inkjet printable 2D material inks, a development that could take 2D crystal heterostructures from the lab and into real-world products.

Examples could include light detectors and devices capable of storing information encoded in binary form, which have so far been demonstrated by researchers at Manchester University in collaboration with the University of Pisa.

Graphene – the world’s first 2D material – is 200 times stronger than steel, lightweight, flexible and more conductive than copper. Since its isolation in 2004, the family of 2D materials has expanded.

Scientists can layer graphene and other 2D materials in a precisely chosen sequence – or heterostructure – to create devices tailored for specific purposes.

Current ink formulations, which would allow heterostructures to be made by simple and low-cost methods, either contain toxic solvents or require time-consuming and expensive processes. In addition, none of these are optimised for heterostructure fabrication.

According to a report in Nature Nanotechnology the team, led by Prof Cinzia Casiraghi, has developed a method of producing water-based and inkjet printable 2D material inks, which can be used for the fabrication of a wide range of heterostructures by exploiting the design flexibility offered by a technique such as inkjet printing. These inks are also biocompatible and extend their possible use to biomedical applications.

In a statement, Prof Cinzia Casiraghi said: “Due to the simplicity, flexibility and low cost of device fabrication and integration, we envisage this technology to find potential in smart packaging applications and labels, for example for food, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods, where thinner, lighter and cheaper and easy to integrate components are needed”.

PhD student Daryl McManus added: “These inks provide a perfect platform to fully exploit the range of properties of 2D materials by allowing for the first time a precise and scalable method for fabrication of devices of arbitrary complexity utilising 2D materials.”