HOW TO: Make silver ink that conducts electricity

This custom silver ink, developed by materials researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, allows you to draw working circuits out on paper. It's extremely cool, and the video shows you step-by-step how they make it. Bonus: This ink provides an actual reason to use cursive.

Video Link (Via Aaron Rowe)



  1. Bo, sweet Bo, and the Duchess too!! Please don’t “fix” this, we’ll just use the link at the bottom of the post for the ink vid.

  2. Love and want. I also like the idea that one day someone’s high school art class could also teach them circuitry.

    1. For those suggesting the use of a pencil, I would counter-suggest that you test it yourself. Use a multimeter and repeat the experiment 40 sec into the movie, but with a pencil. I got 2.2 mega ohms. That makes the silver pen about 100,000 times more conductive.

  3. Doesn’t pencil also do that? and pencils are much cheaper.

    Reminds me of that old apocryphal story about Nasa spending millions developing the space pen, the Russians just used pencils.

  4. May I refer you to that seminal work of evidently bored grad students, “The effect of moist air on the resistance of pencil lines” (J B Seth et al 1928 Proc. Phys. Soc. 41 29)?

  5. I can’t find a link to the product, but I was using a retail version of this a few weeks ago when I made a blu-ray laser.  Was a blue pen looking thing with silver “solder” ink that came out.  Worked great.  Buddy of mine found it somewhere and bought it.

    edit: Like this:

  6. This is really not all that different from the silver inks that are used as conductors on the surfaces of solar cells. However, those are usually screen-printed, in exactly the same manner as you would do with a t-shirt, and the silver particles in a screen-printed ink are probably too large (and the paste too viscous) for a ball-point pen. The inks used in solar cells also have to be sintered to the underlying silicon at pretty high temperature — they don’t just dry in air in a few seconds — so I think this stuff is pretty cool. It won’t find a use in the type of solar cell made by most companies today, for a number of reasons, but there are certain advanced types of cells where I wouldn’t be surprised to find some variant of this turn up someday.

  7. On the subject of cursive, I recently took the GRE and was informed that not only did I need to sign an agreement, I needed to write out the agreement in cursive before signing it. No print allowed. It took me about 20 minutes of painstaking pensmanship as I hadn’t used cursive since the sixth grade. Anyone know why this is a requirement?

  8. Now I just need a human sacrifice, custom iPhone software package, and working knowledge of Middle Enochian to raise our Great Lord from the watery grave where he lies sleeping…cower mortals, for Great Chthulhu’s return is imminent!

  9. O/T: What is the name of the popularized speech affectation that the narrator haaass–sounding all gravelly and exhausted on the last word of every sentennncce? Besides ‘annoooyying.’

    1. I read somewhere that the BBC has this thing where newscasters speak with downward inflection at the end of sentences: the point being that they don’t then put in their own inflection of surprise or questioning, and it all sounds much more staid and controlled and impartial.

      Other broadcasters do this too, with varying levels of success.

    1. There’s a murder mystery story here somewhere.

      I was thinking more along the lines of another brilliant idea for getting rid of Fidel Castro.

  10. (edit: in reply to robjmiller)

    I think it’s an anti-cheating measure. You can pay someone to take the test for you, and you can give them a fake ID with your name on it, but that person won’t have cursive handwriting that matches yours (assuming they get suspicious enough to check later on). 

    I’m not saying that’s an especially good solution, but I believe that’s the intent. If it were printing, you actually probably could affect a simple draughtsman’s block lettering where even strangers could make their handwriting look fairly similar on short notice. 

    For the LSAT, at least eight years ago, they just took your fingerprints with a neat little invisible ink thing. Obviously, that has its own complications and issues.

  11. I would have loved to have this for my practicum placement last year. Being able to actually just turn a circuit diagram into a circuit would have really grabbed the student’s interest I think. 

    Now when will Noodler’s get this for my fountain pen?

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