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Smart minds silver ink in circular electronics

Swansea University in Wales has developed a recyclable silver conductive ink to support more circular electronics.

A group of university researchers is pioneering low-temperature curing ink for screen printing conductive tracks. The key to the innovation is the conductive particles and the formulation can be adjusted to suit different processes and requirements while maintaining recyclability.

Tests demonstrate that the new ink produces conductivities within 75% of conventional silver flake inks and orders of magnitude higher than commonly used carbon-based inks.

It has been designed to be recovered from a range of different substrates such as paper and plastic packaging and manufacturing waste. During initial testing, 95% of the silver was recovered from uncoated paper and was unchanged by either the printing or the recovery process.

Researchers explain the recovered silver can be made into new inks without further processing. The new method is said to be simple, cost-effective and allows all packaging components to be recycled.

‘We envisage the ink being used in the creation of connected and intelligent packaging,’ the R&D team asserts. These could span capacitive touch sensors, radio frequency ID aerials for IoT monitoring and illuminated packaging. ‘All without the generation of e-waste,’ they conclude.

Swansea University is working within an Innovate UK ICURe project to establish the market potential of the patent-pending idea. The technology could gear up production of the next generation of ‘smart’ packaging. An added benefit is that the breakthrough aligns with UN sustainability goals and the transition to net zero.

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