Case studies

Smart materials

Zepler Institute researchers have developed functional inks that can be printed onto flexible substrates such as textiles and low temperature plastics.

Printing electronic circuits onto textiles is a huge challenge. Not only do the inks have to be conductive, elastic and flexible, they also have to survive washing. At the Zepler Institute, chemists and electronics engineers are working together to find solutions to these problems.

Building on expertise gained in screen printing devices for energy harvesting applications, Zepler Institute researchers have developed novel printable materials such as piezoelectric, piezoresistive, thermochromic, sacrificial and electroluminescent inks. These new materials have enabled the world’s first electroluminescent watch display on fabric to be produced using the Zepler Institute’s dedicated thick film processing lab, with its capabilities in screen and inkjet printing of advanced materials and novel ink formulation.

Fabricating the watch, which is flexible and comfortable to wear, involved creating new, low-temperature inks and functional materials and then printing six different layers with high precision. The novel inks developed during the project are now being sold through a spin-out company, Smart Fabric Inks, and researchers are exploring a variety of new applications for printed electronics, such as wearable medical sensors, solar cells on yacht sails and illuminated removable building facades and displays.