Recyclable Silver Ink for Printed Electronics
Dr James Claypole completed his PhD in Nanotechnology at Swansea University, which looked into the study of printing inks, and how they relate to the printing performance of electrically conductive materials.
After noticing the amount of printed silver waste generated by his small/lab scale research projects, which use only a fraction of the material in commercial operations, James began thinking there must be a better way to minimise the amount of wastage. Silver inks are currently used in printed electronics such as consumer goods, solar panels, smart packaging, sensors, and wearables. The current methods for recovering silver from printed electronics use aggressive toxic chemicals, which allow the high value silver to be recovered, but these methods generate toxic waste and prevent the recycling of other parts in the process. The silver recovered by these methods requires significant further processing before it can be reused.
James’ innovation uses a specially formulated silver ink with a conductivity comparable with current commercial silvers and a unique recovery process. The process allows for the recovery of the silver particles from the end product, using no toxic chemicals and therefore enabling the recycling of the substrate through its own waste stream. Furthermore, the silver recovered by this process can be reused in the formulation of new silver inks without the need for further processing, saving energy and reducing cost.
Trials of the method in the lab showed that the silver could be recovered from a paper substrate with a 94% efficiency using only water. The generation of an environmentally friendly silver ink is the first step to creating truly recyclable printed electronics.
The success of this led to working with AgorIP on filing a patent to protect the ink and recovery method. The AgorIP scheme is supported by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund, and through this we were able to fund initial searches, market research studies, and the writing and filing of the patent application. The application has since been filed with UKIPO and is officially ‘patent-pending’!
We are really excited to have been involved in this innovation, and are looking forward to seeing how Dr Claypole’s methods progress in the coming months!
For more information, you can contact Dr Claypole at [email protected].