Scientists develop paper-based sensors

Jenny Blackburn from Purdue University inspects the paper-based sensors fabricated with sputter deposition techniques. (Photo: Autumn Pratt)

IMPT | Can new ideas sketched out on a sheet of paper also be produced on paper? Is it possible to integrate sensors for computers or smartphones into a sheet of paper? Scientists of the Institute of Micro Production Technology (IMPT) are working on this vision of the future.

Paper is a sustainable, low-cost and abundant material. But is it suited for the production of technical devices? "Yes", says Meriem Akin of IMPT. Within the scope of her doctoral thesis, she developed a paper-based sensor and was supported by young academics from the U.S.A.: This year, Autumn Pratt and Jenny Blackburn came over as visiting scientists for short research periods at IMPT.

The so-called anisotropic magneto-resistive (AMR) sensor placed in a magnetic field is able to sense rotary motion. For example, AMR sensors are capable of sensing whether a smartphone is held vertically or horizontally. Sensors are usually produced on semiconductor material, such as silicon substrate, which is five times as thick as a sheet of paper. So the unconventional material could help to produce even thinner sensors – and to make use of previously high-cost technologies at a more favourable price.

In the first place, however, paper would be able to provide for a sustainable production technology, since cellulose is a renewable resource. "Paper can be used for a lot more than just for disposable cups and newspapers", says Meriem Akin.

by Susann Reichert

Image gallery for this article

  • Jenny Blackburn from Purdue University inspects the paper-based sensors fabricated with sputter deposition techniques. (Photo: Autumn Pratt)
  • Autumn Pratt from the University of Idaho characterizes the paper-based sensor in a magnetic field. (Photo: Jennifer Blackburn)
  • Detailed micrograph of the fibre distribution on a paper platform. (Photo: Meriem Akin, Alexander Kusch)
  • First sensor prototypes: anisotropic magneto-resistive sensor strip on a paper platform. (Photo: Meriem Akin, Kai Wilken)
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