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Printed circuits turn paper into a self-powered keyboard

A simple printing process can turn any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad, or other easy-to-use human-machine interface, researchers report.

They say their new technology could transform paper sheets from a notebook into a music player interface and make food packaging interactive.

“This is the first time a self-powered paper-based electronic device [has been] demonstrated,” says Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Purdue University.

“We developed a method to render paper repellent to water, oil, and dust by coating it with highly fluorinated molecules. This omniphobic coating allows us to print multiple layers of circuits onto paper without getting the ink to smear from one layer to the next one.”

Martinez says this innovation facilitates the fabrication of vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, since they harvest the energy from their contact with the user.

This technology is compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes and could easily be implemented to rapidly convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface.

“I envision this technology to facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to proper identify themselves as the owner of the package,” Martinez says.

“Additionally, our group demonstrated that simple paper sheets from a notebook can be transformed into music player interfaces for users to choose songs, play them, and change their volume.”

The paper appears in Nano Energy.

Martinez and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of his technologies related to robots and other design innovations.

Source: Purdue University