Printable Electronic Nanotube Inks and Concentrates (PENTIAC)
Develop a new class of electrically conducting materials based on carbon nanotubes, for printing electric circuits, inks, and other products.
Sponsor: Eikos Inc.2 Master Drive
Franklin, MA 02038
Eikos plans to develop a fundamentally new class of electrically conducting printable inks based on carbon nanotubes. Many industries, including displays, semiconductors, electronics, plastics, automotive, aerospace and lighting, rely on electrically conductive materials. Standard conductors, such as silver, indium tin oxide (ITO) and electrically conducting polymers, face significant technical problems that cannot be overcome with existing materials. Each of these materials presents scientists and engineers with a set of unfavorable manufacturing or environmental compromises that reduces performance and reliability, and increases cost. Silver and indium (in the form of ITO) are becoming more scarce and expensive, and procuring them and disposing of them pose environmental risks. As an alternative, Eikos aims to create Printable Electronic Nanotube Inks and Concentrates (PENTIAC), a group of water-based inks containing highly purified carbon nanotubes. The inks would be used in printable electronics, a process in which a printer deposits materials on a surface to make circuits or other electronic devices. Eikos aims to create three grades of PENTIAC to meet a variety of market needs. Ink formulations with low electrical conductivity would be designed to replace carbon black and conducting polymers. Intermediate-conductivity printable ink would be alternatives to ITO for touch screens and other flexible surfaces on which other electronic materials cannot be deposited. High-conductivity grade inks designed to replace printed silver and ITO would be used as conductive wires and films in solar cells and displays. These nanotube inks will be deposited using standard printing techniques, accelerating the growth of the printed electronics industry. Eikos pursued ATP funding because of the hesitancy of private capital and industry to invest in high-risk materials development. There are significant technical variables that contribute to the difficulty of creating reproducible highly conductive carbon nanotube coatings. One example is the variability of carbon nanotube quality between multiple suppliers. Toward these ends, Eikos will develop and apply a certification protocol for nanotube suppliers. Eikos estimates that ITO and printed ink markets represent greater than $1 billion of sales with a greater than 25 percent annual growth rate. If successful, PENTIAC products will be a cornerstone of growing United States industries in solar power, displays, and printed electronics.