The irony of the integrated circuit – the silicon chip – is that it integrates so little. It cannot incorporate a loudspeaker, microphone, push button or a reasonable battery or solar cell for example, because these are too big and silicon chips have to be small for viability. Large silicon chips are prohibitively expensive.
Printed electronics is very different. It can integrate all these things.
Printed inductance is very feeble – no ferrite cores or multiple turns on top of each other yet – but many companies already print even high power resistors on the desired flexible, low cost substrates, some acting as heaters for eg thermochromic displays.
Printed Supercapacitors and Solar Cells
ACREO prints supercapacitors as gate dielectrics in its transistors, indeed, flexible supercabatteries less than one millimeter thick were launched this year by Nanotecture. Dyesol dye-sensitized solar cells, have achieved record efficiencies of 12.3%. They have led to Dyesol’s CEGS technology: Combining Electricity Generation and Storage. This is a promising way of integrating a dye solar cell with a supercapacitor which could be a potential spin-out from Dyesol. Plastic Electronics GmbH is creating a variety of printed devices relying on capacitive effects from smart shelves to thumb controls.
Printed Matermaterials and Memcapacitors
Printed metamaterial components are coming along. What will we be able to do with the planned memcapacitors derived from memristors? Memory that takes no power is a possibility
Integration and Large toolkits
Bluespark printed manganese dioxide zinc battery supporting integral antenna and interconnects.
Infinite Power Solutions sells its laminar batteries with energy harvesting interfaces that will increasingly be made in one process, providing near loss-less energy storage, highly efficient power management electronics, and regulated output voltage—all in a miniaturized footprint.
New printed electronics increasingly consists of components printed on top and alongside each other, the discrete component becoming a thing of the past. This can lead to capacitive coupling.
Large Area not a Problem
Stretchability, edible electronics, transparent and tightly rollable electronics and other totally new paradigms completely change the design rules.
An unrolled printed photovoltaic or piezoelectric power source can be huge without being a problem as can the unrollable displays, keyboards etc printed at the same time. Printed electronics on a poster, billboard or even point of sale display has large area available so such things as transistor feature size or photovoltaic efficiency are not necessarily a primary issue if the materials are affordable.