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How to turn paper into a transistor: Beat it to a pulp

Posting in Technology

Paper chase: Transistors have shrunk incredibly since Bell Labs invented the first one in 1947 (replica above). They could be headed onto paper.

Paper electronics are expected to become a staple of the renewable, resourceful economy. Researchers have produced paper batteries and light emitting diodes.

They've also made various types of paper circuits, but not transistors, the website Phys.org notes. The problem is the mountainous topography of paper. On a micro scale,  it's full of peaks and valleys. Transistors don't like that. They prefer flat terrain.

So make way for the nano-bulldozer from the University of Maryland. Researchers there "have succeeded in creating a transistor using a new kind of paper as a base," Phys.org notes, citing from the journal ACS Nano. "They were able to overcome the limitations of ordinary paper by creating flat nanopaper that allowed for printing a layered transistor."

How did they do it?

"The researchers created nanopaper by treating paper pulp with oxidizing enzymes and mechanically beating it till very flat. The end result is paper that is 84 percent transparent and exceptionally flat—its fibers have an average diameter of just 10nm."

Beating it till very flat?  Time to repurpose your meat tenderizer!

Photo: Wikimedia

— By on February 5, 2013, 9:37 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure