With new “inks” containing semiconductors, researchers have been able to print LEDs for the first time. A 3-D printer can already make a prototype or spare part out of metal or polymer. Researchers at Princeton University have now taken an important step toward expanding the technology’s potential…by developing a way to print functioning electronic circuitry out of semiconductors and other materials. They are also refining ways to combine electronics with biocompatible materials and even living tissue, which could pave the way for exotic new implants.
With cartridges full of semiconductor “inks,” it should be possible to print circuits for all sorts of tasks, says Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor at Princeton, who led the work. To demonstrate the feat, the researchers printed a light-emitting diode within a contact lens.
The processors and display circuitry inside a computer don’t lend themselves to 3-D printing, because they require many complex components fabricated on the nanoscale. But it could be used to make medical devices or implants that incorporate electronics. Researchers might, for example, print a scaffold for growing nerve tissues, says McAlpine. And if they could also print LEDs and circuits within the scaffold, the light could stimulate the nerves, and the electronics could be used to interface with a prosthetic arm, he suggests. … (Read more)