In a line of firsts, a paper published in the virtual Journal of Electronic Materials in late March, describes the development of a completely spray-able digital memory device. Though previous prototypes of flexible and small memory devices have been developed before, the Duke University researchers who authored this study where the first to have the faculties to create a real-life applicable version of it. By using “silica-coated copper nanowires encased in a polymer matrix,” more specifically silicon nanowires dissolved in methanol to create a spray-able ink, they’ve created a way to spray on a memory device similar to a “4-bit flash drive” that can be printed on flexible surfaces and produced at low cost. The spray can be jet-printed safely on to simple everyday materials like paper, plastics or fabrics without concern of it catching on fire or melting.
Further advantages of this device are that the very core of the device is as small as a postage stamp. This core holds the digital information encoded in simple binary patterns that are the opposite of the conventional state. Usually coded information is processed where in a charged state is a one and an uncharged state is a zero. This device the coding is done in sates of resistance, by applying a low level of voltage the structure moves from a high state of resistance to a low enough state of resistance that allows for the flow of electrical current. Though the device is not yet at a point where it can store more complex forms of digital information such as pictures or music it is durable. It has the speed of a USB when it switches from a high resistance to low resistance state, and has been shown to keep information without degrading it for up to 10 years with the ability to be re-written or used.
Duke graduate student Matthew Catenacci, described the device and notes that this simple but convenient device would be ideal for use in environmental sensors or RFID tags. RFID tags have up until now only really been used to identify produce and recording inventory, according to Benjamin Wiley (associate professor of chemistry at Duke), but he mentions that further developing these tags with this type of device could provide those in the produce industry with more information like what the produce experienced environmentally. This writer further notes that this could prove to be very valuable information in monitoring the effects of climate change and agricultural yield regionally.
Duke Univeristy. “Spray-On emmory could enable bendable digital storage: Nanowire ink enables flexible, programmable electronics on materials like paper, plastic or fabric..”ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/17040313545.htm.