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Ready for self-updating company cards and tickets?

What if, instead of ordering brand-new business cards when you change jobs, you could simply update your existing card directly? Or if you could call up a brand-new color of wallpaper when you grew tired of the old?

Turning daily paper products into interactive gadgets is ending up being a possibility thanks to the work of Elvira Fortunato and her spouse Rodrigo Martins, the Portuguese creators of paper transistors. As the electronic book and online newspaper threaten to turn paper into simple packaging, their research guarantees a brand-new future for a 2,000-year-old material.

A director of the Materials Research Centre (Cenimat) at Lisbon’s Universidade Nova, Prof Fortunato began taking a look at paper as an assistance product for transistors, the Lego bricks, as she puts it, that offer the computing power in nearly every electronic device.

Her development featured the discovery that paper might function in a transistor as an active part. A transistor needs insulating, semi-conducting and conducting content to work, she says. Our development was to reveal that paper could provide the insulating element.

Deploying zinc oxide, another cheap and plentiful compound, as a semiconductor, and aluminum as the conductor, the team used copy paper and an adapted ink-jet printer to make its very first transistor. I thought the probability of success was extremely low, but it worked very first time, says Prof Fortunato.

Since releasing their results in 2008, the group has been dealing with potential industrial applications. It is now a candidate to run a 20m European pilot job to make paper chips. In two to four years, Europe might see the birth of an electronic paper industry, says Prof Martins.

Their goal is developing low-cost, non-reusable applications to complement instead of change silicon chips. The latter are more efficient, however likewise much pricier and ecologically damaging to produce. Up to 80 percent of naturally-occurring silicon is lost in the manufacture of chips, which requires high temperature levels, clean spaces and the use of toxic gases.

Paper microchips, by contrast, can nearly be made at home, says Prof Fortunato. They use about 1,000 times less content, can be produced at space temperature at a portion of the cost and are completely recyclable and disposable.

Smart labels, consisting of interactive shipping tags and from another location updateable grocery store labels, are high on the list of potential uses, along with self-updating aircraft tickets, company cards and food labels. Anxious that a senior relative may have forgotten to take their medication? Packages of tablets could quickly notify you by electronic message.

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