Loughborough University
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Printing conductive traces to enable high frequency wearable electronics applications

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posted on 2015-06-16, 11:32 authored by Ying Ying Lim
With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless body area networks (WBANs) are becoming increasingly pervasive in everyday life. Most WBANs are currently working at the IEEE 802.15.4 Zigbee standard. However there are growing interests to investigate the performance of BANs operating at higher frequencies (e.g. millimetre-wave band), due to the advantages offered compared to those operating at lower microwave frequencies. This thesis aims to realise printed conductive traces on flexible substrates, targeted for high frequency wearable electronics applications. Specifically, investigations were performed in the areas pertaining to the surface modification of substrates and the electrical performance of printed interconnects. Firstly, a novel methodology was proposed to characterise the dielectric properties of a non-woven fabric (Tyvek) up to 20 GHz. This approach utilised electromagnetic (EM) simulation to improve the analytical equations based on transmission line structures, in order to improve the accuracy of the conductor loss values in the gigahertz range. To reduce the substrate roughness, an UV-curable insulator was used to form a planarisation layer on a non-porous substrate via inkjet printing. The results obtained demonstrated the importance of matching the surface energy of the substrate to the ink to minimise the ink de-wetting phenomenon, which was possible within the parameters of heating the platen. Furthermore, the substrate surface roughness was observed to affect the printed line width significantly, and a surface roughness factor was introduced in the equation of Smith et al. to predict the printed line width on a substrate with non-negligible surface roughness (Ra ≤ 1 µm). Silver ink de-wetting was observed when overprinting silver onto the UV-cured insulator, and studies were performed to investigate the conditions for achieving electrically conductive traces using commercial ink formulations, where the curing equipment may be non-optimal. In particular, different techniques were used to characterise the samples at different stages in order to evaluate the surface properties and printability, and to ascertain if measurable resistances could be predicted. Following the results obtained, it was demonstrated that measurable resistance could be obtained for samples cured under an ambient atmosphere, which was verified on Tyvek samples. Lastly, a methodology was proposed to model for the non-ideal characteristics of printed transmission lines to predict the high frequency electrical performance of those structures. The methodology was validated on transmission line structures of different lengths up to 30 GHz, where a good correlation was obtained between simulation and measurement results. Furthermore, the results obtained demonstrate the significance of the paste levelling effect on the extracted DC conductivity values, and the need for accurate DC conductivity values in the modelling of printed interconnects.





  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Ying Ying Lim

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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