Producing nano copper - Copper as an alternative to silver in printed electronics

Zachary J. Davis

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Producing nano copper - Copper as an alternative to silver in printed electronics


Printed electronics is among the new technological possibilities, which will help companies to produce smarter products. Well-known products such as solar cells will become smaller and more efficient at storing solar energy and we will see whole new products such as textiles that can measure heart rhythms. The Danish Technological Institute is involved in the development by making copper nanoparticles for printed electronics.

Nanoink can give life to new products
Just like printing a newspaper is it possible to print conductive paths on materials as paper, plastic and textiles. Printed electronics - as the phenomenon is called – is already used a lot in solar cell productions, but the technological possibility to unite electronic and flexible materials will within a short time bring new products to the market: Wearable Technologies and Intelligent packaging which for example can measure temperatures and bacteria content in food.

The products all have conductive paths of silver, which gives them life. But silver is a very expensive material. The Danish Technological Institute Nano- and Microtechnology has developed a cost effective synthesis and filtration protocol for the production of pure copper nanoparticles for printed electronics. The development of copper nanoparticles is interesting because copper is a hundred times as cheap as silver and therefore an opportunity for companies to make new smart products at a cheaper cost.

Good results with copper nanoparticles
The silver, which most ink manufactures uses for printed electronics, consists of microparticles, while The Danish Technological Institute Nano- and Microtechnology make Copper as nanoparticles. The use of nanoparticles is beneficial because of the possibility to pack the particles much more compactly, which increases the electrical conductivity. The copper nanoparticles have already been formulated and tested by the Italian company Chimet S.p.a.:

The first results from Chimet are really good. They show us that the material is just as conducitve as ink based on micro silver, “ Zachary J. Davis from The Danish Technological Institute explains.     

From developing to upscaling
Not many in the world are concerned with copper for printed electronics. At The Danish Technological Institute Nano- and Microtechnology we have taken the development to the point that we now produce 75-100 grams of nano copper per hour in our flow system. Therefore upscaling is not far.  

The goal is to have our own facility where we print nano inks directly on products:
”We want to bring the technology to Denmark so that companies can build and print components, for example sensors and batteries, ” tells  Zachary J. Davis.