Researchers at the University of Illinois have come up with a remarkable new ink based upon a surprising material — silver.
The study, just published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, details the new ink, which is based upon a solution of silver and ammonia. This type of ink is a liquid at room temperature. It is made up of particles that are far smaller than those in conventional inks, requiring much smaller printer nozzles — as small as 100 nanometers in diameter, compared with those on conventional devices, which measure something on the order of a micrometer across.
The smaller particles and nozzles can be expected to translate into finer resolution and more detail in the printed copy. And the advantages, it appears, do not stop there.
The new inks are based upon a more stable solution of chemicals and promise, for that reason, to be easier to manufacture, store and transport.
Also, conventional inks need to be heated by the printer to a very high temperature before they become conductive and can get fed through a nozzle. The silver-based solution, in contrast, gets to its maximum conductivity at about 90 degrees Celsius, or about 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it is warm to the touch at these temperatures, it is still cool enough to print on most materials. The new inks, for that reason, will be usable with a huge variety of materials including plastic and delicate fabrics.
The cost of progress
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the new ink solution is that of price; it is not as expensive as you might expect. The price of silver has varied between 26 dollars and 48 dollars US per ounce over the last year. However an ounce of silver, claim the research team, would be enough to produce a sizeable volume of ink. The final cost to the consumer, they assure us, will be about the same as that for present, commercial inks.