Paper Electronics & Paper Batteries
Paper electronics, the printing of electronic devices, circuits and displays on paper substrates, is approaching commercialization and promises the remaking of entire markets. Like the similar plastic electronics, paper electronics will offer incredibly low costs combined with technological sophistication that will enable entirely new applications, like packaging with cheaply printed keypads and displays.
Plastic electronics will, of course, never duplicate silicon’s performance, but that isn’t the point. Silicon-based electronics, unlike paper electronics, will never be useful for such a broad range of inexpensive, even disposable applications like business cards that update themselves or their owner’s location, small tabs that can quickly diagnose disease in the home, billboards that offer video and a host of entirely new markets made possible by paper substrates.
While some technical issues remain, the real promise of paper electronics lies in its adaptability to roll-to-roll (R2R) printing. R2R printing will allow printing of large areas of paper substrates at speeds faster than an Olympic sprinter can run. With such high volume production and cheap materials, paper electronics will bring intelligence to innumerable tasks that today are strictly low tech.
Perhaps the most promising sector of paper electronics is in paper batteries and ultracapacitors. Paper, already in common use in power capacitors like those used on utility poles, can be made into a battery by simply coating a sheet of paper with an electrode-like material, usually carbon nanotubes or more recently, graphene. Paper batteries will soon be able to replace those found in common commercial products like cell phones. What paper batteries can do that conventional batteries cannot is adapt to unusual (or flat) shapes and, in the form of ultracapacitors, deliver bursts of power efficiently. Because of their versatility, paper batteries and ultracapacitors will be able to address enormous potential markets.
Thintri’s Paper Electronics report covers the state of paper electronics and paper battery development, and discusses promising applications and markets that can be captured within the decade. Those markets include displays and keypads on ordinary, disposable packaging, general-purpose flexible displays, signage (such as continually updating price information on supermarket and retail items), home-use medical diagnostics and medical devices as well as anti-counterfeiting and retail product security. Market forecasts are provided to 2020.