HomeNewsFoldable Keyboard Made Out of Paper is Now a Thing

Foldable Keyboard Made Out of Paper is Now a Thing

​A team of researchers has discovered a new printing process that is able to turn any piece of paper or cardboard into a waterproof keyboard that you can fold up and carry around with you in your pocket. This new type of keyboard doesn’t even need a power source.

The technology makes use of a particular coating that doesn’t absorb liquids and repels dust, and which enables multiple circuit layers to then be printed on top of the paper. In addition, the tech doesn’t allow any smudging or degradation between the layers when enabling the circuit sheets.

The New Device Ticks Multiple Boxes

On the other side of the paper or cardboard, common ink printing can be used to indicate the place where the pressure points – or buttons – are, and what they stand for. These layers can be printed in any kind of design you want, from numerical keypads to volume controls.

Moreover, the technology doesn’t require any battery or power plug in order to operate the finished keyboard. The new invention is now known as a triboelectric nanogenerator or TENG device, able to be completely powered from the touch of the operator and the mechanical energy that is generated.

“This is the first time a self-powered paper-based electronic device is demonstrated,” says biomedical engineer Ramses Martinez, from Purdue University. “We developed a method to render paper repellent to water, oil, and dust by coating it with highly fluorinated molecules. This omniphobic coating allows us to print multiple layers of circuits onto paper without getting the ink to smear from one layer to the next one.”

The moment the printed parts of the paper or cardboard gets pressed, they are able to send signals over Bluetooth to another device, for instance, a laptop. You’ve then got a lightweight, foldable keyboard that can be carried anywhere and easily wiped clean whenever needed.

This new technology checks numerous boxes: it can be improved greatly using existing production processes, it is good for the environment as the paper can be recycled again, and it is flexible. Also, it is water-resistant and fully customizable.

Paper Used as a Volume Control Keyboard

These newly-created paper devices are not expensive to manufacture as well – they cost less than $0.25 each, as per the team of researchers. Potential uses include smart packaging, or where temporary input devices are needed.

The scientists have created a demonstration video of the paper being used as a volume control device. You can see it below.

“I envision this technology to facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to properly identify themselves as the owner of the package,” says Martinez. “Additionally, our group demonstrated that simple paper sheets from a notebook can be transformed into music player interfaces for users to choose songs, play them, and change their volume.”

A paper detailing the findings has been published in the journal Nano Energy.


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