Team creates carbon nanotube circuits with inkjet printing

Researchers in California are reported to have used inkjet printing to make the first fully printed carbon-nanotube-based electronic circuits.

A team from Aneeve Nanotechnologies, a start-up company at UCLA’s on-campus technology incubator at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), used low-cost inkjet printing to fabricate the first circuits composed of fully printed carbon-nanotube–based electronics for use with OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays.

OLED-based displays are now in mobile phones, digital cameras and other portable devices. But developing a lower-cost method for mass producing such displays has been complicated by the difficulties of incorporating thin-film transistors that use amorphous silicon and polysilicon into the production process.

In the study, the team made carbon-nanotube thin-film transistors with high mobility and a high on-off ratio.

The researchers claim that their work demonstrates the first fully printed single-pixel OLED control circuits and their fully printed thin-film circuits could offer significant performance advantages over traditional organic-based printed electronics.

‘This is the first practical demonstration of carbon-nanotube-based printed circuits for display backplane applications,’ said Kos Galatsis, an associate adjunct professor of materials science at UCLA Engineering and a co-founder of Aneeve.

‘We have demonstrated carbon nanotubes’ viable candidacy as a competing technology alongside amorphous silicon and metal-oxide semiconductor solution as a low-cost and scalable backplane option,’ he said.

The developers claim this process utilises an inkjet printing method that eliminates the need for expensive vacuum equipment and lends itself to scalable manufacturing and roll-to-roll printing.

The research was published this month in the journal Nano Letters.