Printed electronics have become a major technology in the electronics industry since they provide the ability to wire electronic components and circuits with ease and precision. But silver-based conductive inks are very expensive, and copper-based inks designed to replace them are not stable in air.
In addition, unlike graphic printing, metallic conductive inks require sintering – a method based on atomic diffusion for creating objects from metal and ceramic powders. In most sintering processes, the powdered material is put in a mold and then heated to a temperature below the melting point. The tiny nanoparticles can then meld together and form a continuous conductive structure.
Current copper-based inks require high sintering temperatures, and this limits their use and application on heat-sensitive surfaces.
Now, Yissum, the Hebrew University’s research and development arm, has introduced new oxidation-resistant copper nano-inks with a low sintering temperature (lower than 150 C). This makes it possible to print low-cost conductive patterns on heat-sensitive plastic substrates.
Developed by Prof. Shlomo Magdassi of the chemistry institute and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, the new inks can be tailored for a variety of applications, including ink-jet, flexography and screen printing.
“Printed electronics opens the door to a future of electronic applications such as flexible displays, smart labels, decorative and animated posters, as well as active clothing,” said Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin. “Thanks to this great potential, the total market for printed, organic and flexible electronics is projected to grow from $16 billion in 2013 to $76.8b. in the next 10 years,” he said.
“The copper-based nano-ink invented solves some of the major limitations that are preventing widespread use of conductive inks, and we are certain that this novel ink will become an important aspect of the growing industry of printed electronics.
With its unique properties, the novel ink is suitable for various applications including RFID-tags, solar cells, sensors and electrodes for displays.”
Yissum is now looking for partners for further development and commercialization of this invention.
STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY CENTER OPENS
A total of $4 million has been invested in a new center for structural biology at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The Lorry Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering, together with the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion, invested the money to make it the most advanced of its kind in the Middle East.
Prof. Ada Yonath, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry, attended the opening ceremony in March.
Dr. Hay Dvir, who heads the center, said that the new facility is a “quantum leap in the field of structural biology in Israel and will allow for more extensive interdisciplinary biomedical research at the Technion.
The state-of-the-art macromolecular crystallography instrumentation here allows for biological research at the atomic level, which has thus far been mostly studied at a few billion- dollars facilities abroad.”
Structural biology is a branch of life science that aims to understand the function of biological macromolecules – such as the tens of thousands of different proteins responsible for most of the biochemical processes in the living organism – by decoding their unique three-dimensional structure. The difficulty lies in the tiny dimensions of these molecules that cannot be resolved by visible light rays and thus are invisible by definition.
X-ray crystallography is the most powerful technique for high-resolution studies of biological molecules since the wavelength of x-rays is short enough to allow distinction of inter-atomic bonds. The new center is equipped with a “diffractometer” to illuminate crystals and measure the X-rays they scatter.
“By identifying the unique scattering of each crystal, we hope to unravel the molecular structure that gave rise to its crystal,” explained Dvir.
“Our ability to ‘see’ invisible objects is not only exciting and highly informative in itself, but also of tremendous medical importance when it comes to looking at interaction between a drug and its destination target in the body” he added.
The process of solving a three-dimensional structure can be time-consuming and challenging, and its success depends, among other things, on the brightness of the X-ray source.
The substantial improvement in the brightness of X-rays produced at the center now allows in-house, high-resolution structure determination without having to rely on external sources such as synchrotron facilities located in several places around the world, Dvir said. It is also equipped with advanced robotic systems for crystallization of biological macromolecules, as well as high-end microscopic imaging for tracking crystal growth.