“Type” on Paper, Transmit to Other Devices Wirelessly


Ranging from probabilistic computers to testing a fridge in microgravity, the Purdue University is on a streak of creating innovative tech. Now, it seems that Purdue is focusing on smart, washable electronics, including waterproof self-powered paper-based electronics (RF-SPEs). These smart materials are washable and can be easily cleaned.

Dr. Ramses V. Martinez, an assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University, shares that these smart materials aim to establish a “seamless communication between humans, machines and household items in the near future.” He also manages FlexiLab’s designs and inventions, where it focuses on creating economical and sustainable materials using nano-fabrication technology.


Smart paper-based electronics

The study on paper-based electronics or RF-SPEs was published in Nano Energy. Here, Martinez and his team wrote that the biggest concern for paper-based smart materials is the risk of degradation with moisture, battery consumption, and the inability to sync with the existing technology.

Despite all that, the omniphobic self-powered paper-based electronics are wireless, cost-friendly, and resist moisture, stains, and dust. The authors share that these can be “rapidly fabricated through the sequential spray-deposition of alkylated organosilanes, conductive nanoparticles, polytetrafluoroethylene (strong electron affinity), and ethyl cellulose (weak electron affinity) over the surface of cellulose paper.” The RF-SPEs are also lightweight, “inexpensive to print (less than $0.25 per device), and capable of generating power densities up to 300 μW/cm2.”

From newspapers to medical use

The Purdue University started using a newspaper printing process to print smoother, more flexible, and ultra-fast paper-based electronic materials. The present metal fabrication techniques generate metallic circuits that have rough surfaces that cause the device to heat up and consume more battery. Martinez says that “Printing tiny metal components like newspapers make them much smoother. This allows an electric current to travel better with less risk of overheating.”

Using this manufacturing technique, “Martinez’s lab spray paints or stencils arrays of sensors onto paper-like materials.” By integrating the paper with other nano components, the paper could be used to produce paper keyboards, smart newspapers, smart garments, and so on.

Ramses Martinez, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering.
Purdue engineer Ramses Martinez rethinks how new technology is manufactured so that it is practical for everyday use. (Image: Rebecca McElhoe / Purdue University)

The inventions of Dr. Martinez and his team of scientists and engineers pay their utmost attention to creating devices that can monitor your health at home. Purdue’s smart clothes or smart papers, for example, repel moisture, stains, and even bacteria. The dirt or dust on paper keyboards can be easily wiped away.

“Most of my research is focused on expanding the general public’s access to biomedical technology,” says Dr. Martinez, describing how medical treatment may not be accessible or affordable to some. Of course, there’s more to be done in enhancing this technology before it becomes mass produce,d, but the study is definitely a step forward towards that future.

YouTube: Moisture insensitivity and rapid cleaning of a flexible, wireless RF SPE keypad.

Photo credits: The images used are taken by Rebecca McElhoe for Purdue University and have been provided for press usage.
Source: Nano Energy (ScienceDirect)

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Ujala Chowdhry
Ujala Chowdhry
Hello, I'm a tech journalist here. I have been able to view many facets of technology at TechAcute and continue to learn more. I love covering global tech solutions and being socially available on Twitter.
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