In response to the increasing demand for smaller, thinner and more versatile electronic devices, researchers at Stevens are creating inkjet-printed electrodes using graphene oxide ink. The invention can be used in many applications spanning from components in solar cells and miniature power devices, to sensing elements in wearable health monitoring systems.
The new technology has just been patented. The graphene film is mechanically strong, yet flexible. The graphene electrodes have longer life cycle than rechargeable batteries. The invention is also affordable, as it can be produced from graphite powder mined from the earth.
“The thin graphene film’s electrical and optical properties can be utilized as the next generation sensors in wearable technology,” said Linh Le, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and co-inventor of this technology.
To create the thin sheets of graphene electrodes, the researchers took ink containing tiny flakes of graphene oxide and placed it on a flexible substrate, using an inkjet printer. Then, to improve the conductivity of the electrodes, the graphene oxide was thermally reduced to graphene, or adjusted by adding nanoparticles of other materials to the ink. The thickness of the electrodes was tailored to suit specific needs, using the inkjet printer.
The inkjet-printed graphene technology is the force behind FlexTraPower, a startup company founded by Linh Le and Woo Lee at Stevens in 2013. The company became fully active this summer, when Linh brought in a serial entrepreneur, Nguyen Nguyen, as the founding CEO.
“Linh Le has had a fascinating journey as a student and entrepreneur,” said Dr. Woo Lee, George Meade Bond Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Stevens Institute of Technology and director of the lab where Le works. “He has positioned his startup for eventual success in the market place.”
FlexTraPower aims at designing and improving consumer products. The company is currently working with several development partners to introduce the first product in the form of fitness tracking device, said Linh, a winner of the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame 2012, for his contribution to the development of the inkjet-printed graphene electrodes.
“In this new and highly inter-disciplinary world, I believe that science, technology and business can co-exist in the same person,” Linh said. “My genuine interest is to make an impact and create real value from the results of my work”
Linh said that the research environment at Stevens has played an important role in the success of his work.