Inkjet-Printed Ag-Layers on Flexible, Uncoated Paper Substrates

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Inkjet-Printed Ag-Layers on Flexible, Uncoated Paper Substrates ( inkjet-printed-ag-layers-flexible-uncoated-paper-substrates )

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sensors Article Evaluation of the Sheet Resistance of Inkjet-Printed Ag-Layers on Flexible, Uncoated Paper Substrates Using Van-der-Pauw’s Method Johanna Zikulnig * , Ali Roshanghias , Lukas Rauter and Christina Hirschl Silicon Austria Labs GmbH, Inffeldgasse 33, 8010 Graz, Austria; ali.roshanghias@silicon-austria.com (A.R.); lukas.rauter@silicon-austria.com (L.R.); christina.hirschl@silicon-austria.com (C.H.) * Correspondence: johanna.zikulnig@silicon-austria.com Received: 11 March 2020; Accepted: 22 April 2020; Published: 23 April 2020 􏰁􏰂􏰃 􏰅􏰆􏰇 􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰌􏰂􏰍 Abstract: With the growing significance of printed sensors on the electronics market, new demands on quality and reproducibility have arisen. While most printing processes on standard substrates (e.g., Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)) are well-defined, the printing on substrates with rather porous, fibrous and rough surfaces (e.g., uncoated paper) contains new challenges. Especially in the case of inkjet-printing and other deposition techniques that require low-viscous nanoparticle inks the solvents and deposition materials might be absorbed, inhibiting the formation of homogeneous conductive layers. As part of this work, the sheet resistance of sintered inkjet-printed conductive silver (Ag-) nanoparticle cross structures on two different, commercially available, uncoated paper substrates using Van-der-Pauw’s method is evaluated. The results are compared to the conductivity of well-studied, white heat stabilised and treated PET foil. While the sheet resistance on PET substrate is highly reproducible and the variations are solely process-dependent, the sheet resistance on uncoated paper depends more on the substrate properties themselves. The results indicate that the achievable conductivity as well as the reproducibility decrease with increasing substrate porosity and fibrousness. Keywords: printed electronics; inkjet printing; paper substrate; Van-der-Pauw; sheet resistance; additive manufacturing 1. Introduction In recent years, printed electronics have found their way into commercial applications with the aim to make electronic applications cheaper, flexible and integrable in all sorts of materials and wearables [1–3]. The growing significance of printed electronics is mainly due to their high potential for cost-efficient mass manufacturing and a high degree of customisation. In addition, as an additive method, printing is considered to have less environmental impact than classical electronics manufacturing [4,5]. Considering sustainability, the applicability of paper as flexible substrate in printed electronics has been attracting continuing interest for several years [6–10], since paper is a low-cost, easily available and biologically degradable material. A recent simulation study also indicates that, in the case of landfilling paper-based electronics, less potentially harmful metal ink particles are released into the environment than when using polymer-based substrates [11]. For the application in printed sensors, the characteristic porosity and surface roughness of paper can even be exploited. An example would be the capacitive sensing of humidity, where the porous paper serves as a dielectric material. When the paper absorbs humidity from its environment, the dielectric constant of the capacitor alters accordingly, and those changes can be measured [12–15]. Additionally, wireless readout-options for such sensors have frequently been reported [16–18] paving the way for truly low-cost, sustainable and smart packaging solutions of the future [19,20]. At the Sensors 2020, 20, 2398; doi:10.3390/s20082398 www.mdpi.com/journal/sensors

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