The need for low-cost and environmentally friendly processes for fabricating printable electronics and biosensor chips is growing. Nanomaterials have proved to be very useful in both printable electronics due to their electronic properties, and in biosensors for signal transduction, and amplification. Chemical vapor deposition requires high temperatures for the growth of nanostructures, restricting the type and nature of materials that can be used as substrates. Conventional plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition requires high vacuum equipment, and the need for vacuum results in additional costs of vacuum pumps and energy resources.

This work is a unique approach for an atmospheric pressure plasma-based process to fabricate printable electronics and functional coatings. The fabrication process involves aerosol-assisted, room-temperature printing in which an aerosol carrying the desired material for deposition is introduced into a cold plasma jet operated at atmospheric pressure. The deposition is the result of the interaction of the aerosol containing the precursor material with the atmospheric pressure plasma containing a primary gas.

The plasma process is capable of printing and patterning conductive traces made of metal micro- and nano-structures, carbon nanotubes, conductive polymers, insulating and dielectric coatings, organic functionalities, and inorganic coatings. The deposition process can be modified for depositing multiple materials, either simultaneously or sequentially, and for high-throughput processing by having multiple jets. The technique is independent of the nature of the chosen substrate, and works for substrates such as paper, plastic, semiconductors, metals, composites, and ceramics. The technique can be used for deposition on large areas and the technology is amenable to a variety of platforms.

This work was done by Meyya Meyyappan and Jessica Koehne of Ames Research Center, Ramprasad Gandhiraman of USRA, and Vivek Jayan of Volunteer Internship Program. NASA invites companies to inquire about partnering opportunities and licensing this patent-pending technology. Contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Office at 1-855-627-2249 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to ARC-17266-1.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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