Due to their unique electronic and mechanical properties carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene are being considered for many applications by a wide range of industry sectors. From displays to gas sensors, all these applications require the deposition of CNTs or graphene in a well organised structure and in a very specific area. The currently used deposition techniques generally involve complex and expensive lithography methods.
However we have developed a technique for depositing CNT-based conductive materials in a controlled fashion. Using a custom-made 3D printer we are able to print nanotube tracks in complex patterns. This deposition technique affords certain control of both the electronic properties of the conductive track and their shape. A direct extension of this deposition method is 3D printing offering the possibility of controlling not only the shape of the resulting materials but also their composition. The printing technique enables the deposition of different materials in a single structure which can be utilised to manufacture compounds with specific characteristics.
Printing electronics affords the possibility of patterning conductive materials on flexible substrates allowing the rapid manufacture of the components at relatively low cost. Applications of these methods include printing conductive tracks on clothing or wearable fabrics which can then power small electronic devices worn on the body such as medical monitors and communication equipment.The printing technique we have developed can be used to deposit any pattern onto a wide range of substrates such as metals, plastics, paper and glass. By controlling the deposition procedure we are able to create an interconnected network of carbon nanotubes or graphene or deposit of several layers of different materials to form extremely light-weight and conductive materials.