A new method of producing water-based and inkjet printable 2D material inks could lead to a number of new applications. Credit: The University of Manchester

A new method of producing water-based and inkjet printable 2D material ink could lead to more efficient light detectors and devices that are able to store information in binary form.

Researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with the University of Pisa, have brought this method from the lab into the real-world, producing inks that are biocompatible and could be extended for biomedical uses.

Kostas Kostarelos, professor of Nanomedicine, explained some of the applications.

“The engineering of water-soluble 2D inks that are compatible with the biological milieu and interact with organisms without harm, can provide a platform of huge potential for a wide range of applications,” Kostarelos said in a statement. “We are certainly looking at this as the beginning for such inks in the biomedical arena.”

Graphene, which is the world’s first 2D material, is lightweight, flexible, more conductive than copper and 200 times stronger than steel. Graphene was isolated in 2004, which expanded the family of 2D materials.

Scientists are able to layer graphene and other 2D materials in a precisely chosen sequence called “heterostructure” to create devices tailored to a specific purpose.

According to the study, exploiting the properties of two-dimensional crystals requires a mass production method able to produce heterostructures of arbitrary complexity on any substrate.

“Due to the simplicity, flexibility and low cost of device fabrication, we envisage this technology to find potential in smart packaging applications, for example for pharmaceuticals and consumer goods,” Professor Cinzia Casiraghi, the research team leader, in a statement. “We are also very excited about the possibility of implementing logic circuits made of 2D materials—indeed, we are further developing these type of devices with our colleagues in Pisa.”

Current ink formulations allow heterostructures to be made by simple and low-cost methods but also contain toxic solvents or require time-consuming and expensive processes. The current formations are also not optimized for heterostructure fabrication.

Daryl McManus, a Ph.D. student on the study, said the new inks are an improvement over the current methods.

“These inks provide a perfect platform to fully exploit the range of properties of 2-D materials by allowing for the first time a precise and scalable method for fabrication of devices of arbitrary complexity utilizing 2-D materials,” McManus said in a statement.

The study was published in Nature Nanotechnology