Conductive inks have a myriad of different interesting applications. As a quick, additive construction method for electronic circuits, they are especially intriguing. Unfortunately, for a long time they have been just out of reach of the hobby market. They are too expensive to buy in decent quantities, too complicated to make, too resistive to be practical, or require high annealing temperatures (which would ruin many of the materials you’d want to put traces on).
Now, though, thanks to some brilliant minds at the UIUC Materials Research Laboratory, you can make your own decent conductive ink!
This ink seems to address many of the problems that other inks have. It’s particle free (won’t clog print heads!), is easy to make, and anneals to the conductivity of bulk silver at only 90 degrees Centigrade (194 degrees Fahrenheit).
After I stumbled upon this paper last month, I decided that I absolutely had to make some.
I am not a chemist, nor have I done any chemistry since high school, so I ended up having to buy both the glassware as well as the chemicals. Even after buying everything that I needed (and some stuff that I probably didn’t), I only spent around $150.
Conductive Silver Ink Pen – Standard Tip. Experiment with paper electronics with this silver conductive ink pen that will let you draw traces! We like the make of this pen, it has a nice liquid silver ink that flows easily, and it works great. In just 3 minutes from opening the packaging, we made the image above, a coin cell holder with an LED.
There are two ‘tips’ available – standard and micro. The microtip allows for finer control but is a little harder to use (because it doesn’t deposit as much silver at once). See the image above with a demonstration of the kind of traces you can draw with each of the lines.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.