Are you an Electrical Engineer by profession? Yes? That’s awesome because I have a cool thing for you to tinker with. Even if you aren’t an Electrical engineer by profession but have a knack for electrical stuff, building cool things, and doing experiments, I have an amazing tool which will kill your time so fast that you wouldn’t even be able to recognize it.
Conductive Ink Pens have taken the world by a storm. The pen is like an ordinary pen but uses a particular type of special ink called the Conductive ink. The special thing about this ink is that it conducts electricity. Typically created by fusing regular ink and graphite or any conductive material together to give it conductive properties.
Traditional industrial standards incorporate the use of copper for laying down conductive traces to make a circuit. But this method has more complications than using conductive ink as the ink can easily be printed on any surface to make traces.
Most of the Integrated Circuits use a special type of surface while using copper because more rigidity and low resistance are preferred. Printed paper and plastic sheets have characteristics that pose problems while using copper traces, like high resistance and extreme lack of rigidity. Conductive ink solves this problem by being so efficient on any surface. Just draw a closed loop and pass electricity through it. Voila! You have a working electrical circuit on paper. Since the inception of conductive ink, many people have started using it instead of using breadboards or wires. It is wireless and hassle-free. Circuits made from conductive ink resemble the circuitry in a chip, just that it’s on paper, and anyone can do it.
How conductive ink is made?
In basic terms, an aqueous solution of silver nitrate is combined with polyacrylic acid and diethanolamine, which serve as the capping agent and the reducing agent respectively. Particles of about 5 nanometers are formed after 22 hours. The size of the particles is insufficient, and the required size is about 400 nanometers. To achieve this, a device which generates high-intensity ultrasound, a sonicator, is used. After the process is over, a thick insoluble precipitate is scooped out, and ethanol is mixed with it to coagulate the particles, which means to convert their liquid state to a bit more solid. Apart from the top layer of the liquid, everything else is centrifuged. After centrifugation, the particles are transferred back into water through a syringe filter. Hydroxyethyl cellulose is mixed, serving the purpose of a binder, and the resultant mixture is homogenized. To achieve a particular thickness or viscosity, the solvents are allowed to evaporate. After that, it is transferred to a roller ball pen.
To the people who haven’t been in touch with chemistry for a while, this is complete hogwash. If your chemistry is good then you might understand this process. But don’t hurt your head understanding this. You don’t have to make it, you just gotta use it.
Circuit Scribe is the first pen to utilize this ink, and it got heavily funded through its Kickstarter campaign. People loved the idea of using a pen that could make functional circuits, instead of using wires, breadboards, and other electrical components. If you love tinkering around with circuits or keep wanting to build cool stuff, do check out a conductive ink pen.