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The focus of the INSPIRED project is to fundamentally improve the current understanding of Printed Electronics (PE). PE is set to revolutionise the electronics industry over the next decade and can offer Europe the opportunity to regain lost market share. It allows for the direct printing of a range of functional (conducting, semi-conducting and dielectric) nanomaterials formulations to enable a simpler, more cost-effective, high performance and high volume processing in comparison to traditional printed circuit board and semiconductor manufacturing techniques. The global growth consulting firm Frost and Sullivan has reported that the market for PE will increase in revenues from $0.53Bn in 2010 to $5.04Bn in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 32.5%. However, the migration towards low-cost, liquid-based, high resolution deposition and patterning using high throughput techniques, such as inkjet printing, requires that suitable functional nanomaterials formulations (e.g. inks) are available for end users in industrially relevant quantities. Presently, there are issues with industrial supply of nanomaterials which are low cost, high performance, environmentally friendly and tailored for high throughput systems. Therefore, better collaboration is warranted between supply chain partners to ensure that nanomaterial production and nanomaterial formulations are tailored for end use applications to meet this need.

The INSPIRED project will address these fundamental issues within the printed electronics industry by ensuring that suitable functional nanomaterials formulations (inks) are available for end users in industrial scale quantities. Production of these nanomaterial formulations on an industrial scale and then depositing them using cost-effective, high throughput printing technologies enables rapid production of printed electronic components, on a wide variety of substrates, therefore enabling new electronics applications whilst overcoming the problems associated with traditional manufacturing.

In detail, the INSPIRED project will develop and demonstrate cost-effective, innovative, high throughput synthesis and functionalization of nanomaterials (e.g. nano-copper, silver nanowires, graphene nanoplatelets) already validated in the laboratory (e.g. currently at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4) for printed electronic systems (e.g. copper indium gallium selenide photovoltaics (CIGS PV), capacitive touch screens (CTS) and liquid crystal displays (LCD)) using high volume printing techniques which surpass currently available printing technologies. The global objective of the INSPIRED project is to demonstrate the synthesis and functionalisation of nanomaterials for printing applications with high process throughput. This will be achieved through development of high performance, cost-effective nanomaterial formulations in a range of commercial applications in relevant industrial environments (TRL 6) against the relevant industrial standards and end user applications.

The partners in the project, which has a duration of four years, come from academia, industries and organisations in 7 European countries and are experts in their fields, covering nanomaterial synthesis and scale-up, ink formulation, high throughput printing, equipment manufacture and process engineering, nanosafety assessment, process and post-process characterisation of nanomaterial inks and components as well as CIGS PV cell, touchscreen display and LCD design and manufacture. The project coordinator is DI Dr. Andreas Klug, MBA from NanoTecCenter Weiz Forschungsgesellschaft mbH (Austria), who is supported by Dr. Paul Reip from Intrinsiq Materials Ltd (UK). Further partners are NanoGap Sub-nm-Powder S.A. (Spain), M-Solv Ltd (UK), Thomas Swan & Co Ltd (UK), BioNanoNet Forschungsgesellschaft mbH (Austria), Touchnetix Ltd (UK), Nexcis (France), EuroLCDs (Latvia), Nanotechnology Industries Association (Belgium), University of Bologna (Italy), Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation (Spain) and University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

Picture from the INSPIRED kick-off meeting in Brussels, Belgium

The focus of the INSPIRED project is to fundamentally improve the current understanding of Printed Electronics (PE). PE is set to revolutionisethe electronics industry over the next decade and can offer Europe the opportunity to regain lost market share. It allows for the direct printing of a range of functional (conducting, semi-conducting and dielectric)nanomaterials formulations to enable a simpler, more cost-effective, high performance and high volume processing in comparison to traditional printed circuit board and semiconductor manufacturing techniques