Electronic Ink Process Paves the Way for Inexpensive, Next-Generation Electronics

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and National Renewable Energy Laboratory have overcome technical hurdles in the quest for inexpensive, durable electronics and solar cells made with non-toxic chemicals. The research team discovered a novel technology to produce a specialized type of ink from non-toxic, nanometer-sized crystals of silicon - often called 'electronic ink.' This video shows how the silicon nanocrystals are synthesized in a plasma reactor. Inert argon gas flows from the top of the reactor through a glass tube. Fifteen watts of radio frequency power is applied to the copper ring electrodes to ionize the argon gas and produce what is called a plasma. A gas containing silicon is injected into the reactive plasma environment to produce the silicon nanocrystals. This resulting 'electronic ink' could produce inexpensive electronic devices with techniques that essentially print it onto inexpensive sheets of plastic.