California Patent of the Month – July 2020

Dr. Alfred Zinn, of Kuprion, developed a copper nanoparticle application process for low temperature printable, flexible electronics and antennas. The invention involves printing electronic circuits and elements using copper nanoparticles, which enable the creation of copper circuits and elements onto a variety of rigid and flexible substrates at pitches below 100 micrometers.

When nanoparticles with a diameter of less than 20 nanometers (optimally in the range of 3-5 nanometers) are printed onto a substrate in the same way that inkjet printers print ink (e.g. using a piezoelectric actuator), the nanoparticles fuse upon impact with the substrate. Copper nanoparticles of these sizes can also be applied in a pattern and fused by exposure to a short-duration pulse of radiant energy, such as a laser or a bright light, or by exposure to certain temperatures. They can also be fused by pressure such as compression under a form or by tracing the desired pattern with a mechanical stylus such as a nanoinscriber.

Forming circuit elements in these methods allows the use of substrate materials, and particularly flexible materials, that cannot tolerate the chemicals and temperatures of the current processes. These methods of printing and forming circuit elements from copper nanoparticles also enable finer pitch circuits (i.e. having small separation distances between conductive elements) than possible with other processes.

Circuit elements formed from copper nanoparticles may include:

  • passive devices such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors,
  • active devices such as transistors,
  • Radio Frequency (RF) elements such as antennae, reflectors, and waveguides,
  • other circuit elements such as ground and power planes, shielding, and signal paths, and
  • complete devices such as a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tags.

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