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The future's bright, the future's on your T-shirt

An entirely new way of making electroluminescent displays using 3-D printers has been developed by a team led by Professor Jack Silver, Executive Director of the Wolfson Centre for Materials Processing at Brunel.

Drawing on work done to create very thin and cheap-to-produce AC electroluminescent (ACEL) displays, Prof Silver and the Phosphor and Display Materials Group have extended their research into multilayer devices, created using 3D printers and specially-formulated functional inks, that have a huge range of potential uses.

With an electric current running through them, perhaps from a small battery, these objects will light up. Printed electronic devices can range from badges for people or instruments, food or product labelling, game displays, security devices or even personal lighting in the form of light panels.

The low cost of these devices means that they can be used for limited-life products, like exhibition stands or conferences, or even incorporated into clothing as display panels.

Much of the interest in this work from industrial partners has been in the new inks, incorporating metal nano-particles, that can be used to print electrical circuits. The project has allowed Johnson Matthey to position itself as a provider of precious metal nano-particles for making inks for ink-jet printing of plastic electronics.

The industrial lead of the project was Printed Electronics Ltd, who worked with Professor Silver and his team to develop and refine the process of screen printing ACEL films onto ink-jet printed circuits and are now creating a high-volume supply chain for printed electronics.