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By using lasers to treat graphene, Iowa State University researchers have found new ways to enable flexible, wearable, and low-cost electronics. Fabricating inkjet-printed, multi-layer graphene electric circuits and electrodes with a pulsed-laser process improves electrical conductivity without damaging paper, polymers, or other fragile printing surfaces.

According to researcher Jonathan Claussen, the treatment creates a way to commercialize and scale-up the manufacturing of graphene, an atom-thick carbon material.

The engineers developed computer-controlled laser technology that selectively irradiates inkjet-printed graphene oxide. The process removes ink binders and reduces graphene oxide to graphene – physically stitching together millions of tiny graphene flakes to improve conductivity.

“The laser works with a rapid pulse of high-energy photons that do not destroy the graphene or the substrate,” said Suprem Das, an Iowa State postdoctoral research associate in mechanical engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. “They heat locally. They bombard locally. They process locally.”

The fabrication method could support sensors with biological applications, energy storage systems, electrical conducting components, and even paper-based electronics.

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Also: Learn about NASA's Graphene Yarns and Sheets.