A new technique directly prints electronic circuits onto curved and corrugated surfaces. (Credit: Yuxuan Liu)

Researchers have demonstrated a new technique for directly printing electronic circuits onto curved and corrugated surfaces. The work paves the way for a variety of new soft electronic technologies, and researchers have used the technique to create prototype smart contact lenses, pressure-sensitive latex gloves, and transparent electrodes.

The first step in the new technique is to create a template for the relevant application that incorporates a specific pattern of microscale grooves. The template is then used to replicate that pattern in a thin elastic polymer film. Researchers then attach the thin polymer film to the relevant substrate, which can be flat or curved. The tiny grooves in the polymer are filled with a liquid solution containing silver nanowires. The solution is allowed to dry at room temperature, leaving behind silver nanowires in a soft material with the desired shape and circuit pattern.

To demonstrate the technique, the researchers created three proof-of-concept prototypes. One was a smart contact lens with built-in circuits, which could be used to measure the fluid pressure of the eye. Another was a flexible, transparent electrode with circuits printed in a grid pattern. The third was a latex glove that has circuits printed on it that serve as pressure sensors.

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