Graphic illustration of material production. (Credit: Tomsk Polytechnic University)

A new method allows for a laser-driven integration of metals into polymers to form electrically conductive composites. The development of flexible electronics, IoT devices, and other technologies requires new materials that exhibit superior mechanical, chemical, and electric stability, comparatively low cost to produce on a large scale, and biocompatibility.

First, aluminum nanoparticles are deposited on PET substrates and, then, the samples are irradiated by laser pulses. Thus, a conductive composite is locally formed in the irradiated areas. The researchers chose aluminum because it is a cheap and readily available metal. Silver is frequently used as a conductor for flexible electronics. Therefore, the obtained samples with aluminum nanoparticles were compared with a silver conductive paste and graphene-based materials.

The method implies two basic technological steps: application of nanoparticles on polymer surface and laser processing. In addition, the method is applicable to a wide variety of materials. Mechanical stability tests (abrasion, impact, and stripping tests) proved that composites based on aluminum nanoparticles surpass other materials. Moreover, during laser processing, aluminium carbide is formed on sample surfaces.