Nanotechnology and the Ink Industry

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 10.10.07

The ink industry has opportunities for nanoparticles, most notably for the growing field of printed electronics.

Nanotechnology has drawn much attention from a wide variety of industries, and for good reason:

Nano Silver Powder 7000-95 from Ferro Electronic Material Systems provides uniform particles with an average size of 60 nm and surface area of ~ 10 m2/gm.
there is tremendous potential for developing nanoparticles that will be able to deliver enhanced performance capabilities to products. For example, for the paint and coatings industry, nanotechnology is being utilized to improve scratch resistance for automotive coatings.

The ink industry has opportunities for nanoparticles, most notably for the growing field of printed electronics.      

According to “Opportunities in Materials for Printable Electronics: 2007 & Beyond,” a report written by NanoMarkets, a leading nanotechnology industry analyst firm based in Glen Allen, VA, the market for electronic inks and related substrate materials used in manufacturing printed electronics is expected to grow to $7.7 billion by 2012. The firm also notes that with several firms gearing up to enter full-scale production mode in 2007 and 2008, the printed electronics business is moving into a new and exciting phase.   
IdTechEx,  based in Cambridge, UK, the leading printed electronics analyst, places the market for organic and printed electronics rising from $1.18 billion in 2007 to more than $300 billion in 20 years. That translates to a lot of ink.                   

In particular, NanoMarkets has high hopes for silver inks. According to NanoMarkets, nanoparticulate silver inks bring numerous benefits including improved conductivity, lower temperature curing and the printing of finer lines, but at a price premium. NanoMarkets expects that premium to gradually erode, leading to strong growth in the nanosilver market, which is expected to reach almost $900 million by 2014. It is also believed that nano inks based on copper, nickel and gold will  also have success in the field.

Nanotechnology and
The Ink Industry

Nanotechnology is no longer merely an academic interest.
“We have crossed the threshold to where nanotechnology is becoming more commercially viable, and is not just a curiosity,” said Bill Fischer, research manager, metal powders for Ferro Electronic Material Systems, which manufactures metal and glass powders as well as formulates inks. “Prior to this, some companies would write nano on their project just to get funding, but we are successfully selling nano products at reasonable volumes.”
Mr. Fischer noted that nanotechnology has key advantages over submicron technology. “The finer the product, the more reactive it is, plus nano products have advantages in chemistry and in sintering,” Mr. Fischer noted. “Companies can also reduce the amount of material they need for coating, as the particle size for nano products is reduced.”
Printed electronics remains the major application for nano inks, with anti-microbial, medical and catalytic applications also offering promise.
NanoInk, Inc. is an emerging growth technology company specializing in nanometer-scale manufacturing and application development for the life science and semiconductor industries. The company is focusing its efforts on the pharmaceutical industry.
“One of the key industries that is utilizing nanotechnology is the pharmaceutical industry,” said NanoInk CEO Cedric Loiret-Bernal. “The FDA estimates that nearly 15 percent of all pharmaceuticals imported to the U.S. contain contaminants, wrong ingredients, or incorrect amounts or insufficient quantities of active ingredients. As this problem grows, the need for on-product brand protection is becoming increasingly urgent, not only for pharmaceutical companies but also for the safety of consumers. NanoInk’s innovative Nanoencryption technology is an industry first and provides the only true forensic level track and trace brand protection at the unit level.”
There are an impressive array of manufacturers engineering nanotechnology-based inks. NanoDynamics, a Buffalo, NY-based nanotechnology specialist, is already having success in the field. NanoDynamics manufactures a broad range of nano- and micron-sized metal powders in dry, non-agglomerated form, or in the form of an easily dispersible wet “pre-dispersion.”
By having exceptionally tight control over particle size and surface chemistry, these powders provide design and manufacturing engineers with outstanding performance and reliability.
According to NanoDynamics, typical applications include conductive inks and pastes (hybrid microelectronics, multi-layer ceramic capacitors, display materials etc.); catalysts for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC); thermally conductive fillers (conductive adhesives, polymer thick film); ink-jet printed conductors and anti-microbial additives.
NovaCentrix is a materials and equipment manufacturer providing nano-enabled products, processes and solutions that encompass ink and photonic curing technology, nanoenergetic materials and anti-viral/microbial applications. NovaCentrix’ silver can be found in FDA approved wound dressings and conductive inks that enable high-speed printing of electronic circuits on paper or plastic. Its aluminum particles offer the most controlled energy release enabling unique nanoenergetic applications for defense, pyrotechnics and commercial explosives.
There is still plenty of work to be done. Mr. Fischer said that the largest challenge remains rheology. “Formulators are having trouble adjusting rheology,” Mr. Fischer said. “Highly loaded systems would be the ideal solution.”
With all of the work that is being done on nano inks and the potential size of the market, it seems certain that these nanotechnology-based inks will continue to thrive in the marketplace.