Carbon 'nanobuds' enable transparent touch sensors on 3D surfaces

November 21, 2014 //By Peter Clarke
Carbon 'nanobuds' enable transparent touch sensors on 3D surfaces
Canatu Oy (Helsinki, Finland), a 2004 spin off from the Helsinki University of Technology, has announced conductive film and touch sensors for 3D surfaces based on carbon "nanobud" (CNB) material, which is a hybrid of fullerene and carbon nanotubes.

The carbon nanomaterial offers numerous advantages over traditional indium tin oxide (ITO) and metal mesh structures not least that they are thermoformable, highly stretchable and can be laid down on curved and 3D surfaces.

The nanobud has a tunable electrical conductivity, high strength, low density, high thermal and mechanical stability and high electrical and thermal conductivity similar to traditional carbon nanotubes but it is not chemically inert like the carbon nanotube. The inclusion of fullerene structures provides sites of high reactivity, low work function and chemical functionalizability. In addition, they have been shown be superior field emitters than traditional nanotubes and have the added benefit that they need not be aligned for the purpose.

The company has launched CNB In-Mold Film, a stretchable, formable conductive film, optimized for use with 3D formed capacitive touch displays and touch surfaces in automobile dashboards, home appliance control panels, television remote controls, smartwatches and portable electronic devices.

This makes use of a single-step manufacturing process combining aerosol synthesis of CNB material and roll-to-roll deposition in a process Canatu calls Direct Dry Printing

CNB In-Mold Film is stretchable up to and beyond 100% and can be easily formed and back-molded using standard industrial processes such as Film Insert Molding (FIM). This means that CNB touch sensors and mechanical buttons can be produced in almost any shape, from smooth spherical domes to sharp edged casings with recesses and bulges.

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