New coating turns paper into music keyboard or keypad

WEST LAYETTE, IND. - A NEW coating technology, developed by a Purdue University Research team, has the ability to turn a sheet of paper into a music keyboard, a keyboard, or make food packaging interactive.

The technology is compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes and could easily be implemented to rapidly convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface.

The process employs an omniphobic coating which does not affect any printed ink and allows circuits to be printed onto the paper that utilizes the user’s self-energy over any electrical power base.

“This is the first time a self-powered, paper-based electronic device is demonstrated,” said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “We developed a method to render paper repellent to water, oil and dust by coating it with highly fluorinated molecules. This omniphobic coating allows us to print multiple layers of circuits onto paper without getting the ink to smear from one layer to the next one.”

Martinez said this innovation facilitates the fabrication of vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, since they harvest the energy from their contact with the user.

“I envision this technology to facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to properly identify as the owner of the package,” Martinez said. “Additionally, our group demonstrated that simple paper sheets from a notebook can be transformed into music player interfaces for users to choose songs, play them and change their volume.”

The Purdue team already has identified a pathway to mass production for its technology.

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges and is ranked as the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States. Martinez and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of his technologies related to robots and other design innovations.


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