Exploring and Demonstrating the Future of Print

What if your clothes could charge your cell phone? Imagine wearing fabric made from photovoltaic textiles acting as solar panels that could charge a mobile phone. Researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. have developed a new photoelectric device that is both flexible and transparent.

At just a few atoms thick, the newly developed technology converts light into electrical signals by exploiting the unique properties of the recently discovered materials graphene and graphExeter. (GraphExeter is the best known room temperature transparent conductor, and graphene is the thinnest conductive material.) Its efficiency is comparable to that found in opaque devices based on graphene and metals, notes Saverio Russo, professor of physics at Exeter. Metallic nanostructures in “smart” materials typically cause a haze that prevents them from being truly transparent, but the photosensitive device developed at Exeter contains no metals and is completely transparent. It can detect light from across the entire visible light spectrum, so it is as efficient at sensing light as other recently developed opaque photoelectric devices.

“We are only just starting to explore the interfaces between different materials at very small scales and, as this research shows, we are revealing unique properties that we never knew existed,” Russo shares. In the not-too-distant future, photosensitive materials and devices such as this could be used for intelligent windows that are able to harvest electricity and display images while remaining transparent, he and his colleagues suggest. Other “smart fabric” applications include the production of athletic wear that could track a runner’s heart rate or medical bandages that could monitor a patient’s vital signs. Military and security agencies are exploring such technologies for their ability to serve as sensors that could alert their wearers to chemical or other hazardous exposures.

Separately, at Georgia Tech, a team led by Mano Tentzerisis has used inkjet-printing technology to combine sensors, antennas, and a silver nanoparticle ink emulsion into a device that gathers energy out of thin air. It pulls low levels of energy from the electromagnetic waves emitted by radios and radar. This line of research could someday lead to self-powering electronic devices.Glimpse the future now

This week PRINT 13, together with co-located CPP EXPO, offers graphic communications professionals an exciting view of future technologies and new business-building opportunities in step with the show’s “Innovate, Integrate, and Communicate” theme. Among the hottest new and emerging print technologies to be discovered are radio-frequency identification (RFID), printed electronics, and three-dimensional (3D) printing.

Featured on the show floor inside the Future Print Pavilion, sponsored by FlexTech Alliance, is the “Experiential Lab” where show visitors can get up close and personal to examine and learn more about key emerging technologies. In addition, PRINT 13 also offers a specialized Future Print seminar track. Among the educational offerings:

• “The Future of Print,” by Industry “Guru” Frank Romano

• “Printed Electronics/Functional Imaging: Advanced Workflow and Printing Techniques,” by Cal Poly’s Colleen Twomey

• “Printed Electronics: How to Implement Your Next Profit Opportunity,” by Cal Poly’s Xiaoying Rong

• “3D Printing for the Commercial Printer,” by Julie Shaffer of Printing Industries of America

• “21st Century Print Technologies Explored,” by Industry Consultant Steven Schnoll

These sessions and programs are among the more than 60 co-located events and 70 educational sessions being held here in Chicago. The events, workshops, users’ groups, and conferences include offerings geared to each of 12 individual segments of the graphic communications industry.

“Printing technologies and opportunities are always changing and expanding,” says GASC President Ralph Nappi. “Today’s graphic communications professionals use technologies that were unheard of 10 or 20 years ago. Attendees at PRINT 13 will be able to explore new and emerging technologies that one day will be seen as routine profit centers.”

Attendees at PRINT 13 also can find a host of new and exciting show floor attractions. Among the new and newly “re-imagined” show floor attractions is SIDELINES—The Expanded Revenue Streams Pavilion, sponsored by Print+Promo magazine.