Inkjet Printed Radio Frequency Passive Components

  • Garret McKerricher

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Inkjet printing is a mature technique for colourful graphic arts. It excels at customized, large area, high resolution, and small volume production. With the developments in conductive, and dielectric inks, there is potential for large area inkjet electronics fabrication. Passive radio frequency devices can benefit greatly from a printing process, since the size of these devices is defined by the frequency of operation. The large size of radio frequency passives means that they either take up expensive space “on chip” or that they are fabricated on a separate lower cost substrate and somehow bonded to the chips. This has hindered cost-sensitive high volume applications such as radio frequency identification tags. Substantial work has been undertaken on inkjet-printed conductors for passive antennas on microwave substrates and even paper, yet there has been little work on the printing of the dielectric materials aimed at radio frequency passives. Both the conductor and dielectric need to be integrated to create a multilayer inkjet printing process that is capable of making quality passives such as capacitors and inductors. Three inkjet printed dielectrics are investigated in this thesis: a ceramic (alumina), a thermal-cured polymer (poly 4 vinyl phenol), and a UV-cured polymer (acrylic based). For the conductor, both a silver nanoparticle ink as well as a custom in-house formulated particle-free silver ink are explored. The focus is on passives, mainly capacitors and inductors. Compared to low frequency electronics, radio frequency components have additional sensitivity regarding skin depth of the conductor and surface roughness, as well as dielectric constant and loss tangent of the dielectric. These concerns are investigated with the aim of making the highest quality components possible and to understand the current limitations of inkjet-fabricated radio frequency devices. An inkjet-printed alumina dielectric that provides quality factors of 200 and high density capacitors of 400 pF/mm2 with self-resonant frequencies into the GHz regime is developed in this thesis. A multilayer fully printed process is demonstrated using PVP dielectric and dissolving type vias, giving better than 0.1 ohm resistance. In the multilayer process, capacitors and inductors have self-resonant frequencies around 1GHz. These fully printed devices have quality factors less than 10. Finally, 3D inkjet-printed UV-cured material is utilized with a novel silver organo-complex ink at 80oC providing conductivity of 1x107 S/m. A lumped element filter is demonstrated with an insertion loss of only 0.8 dB at 1GHz. The combination of inkjet printing 3D polymer and conductive metal together allows for complex shapes. A fully printed antenna with 81% radiation efficiency is shown. With these promising results and future advances in conductive inks and low-loss dielectrics, the performance of inkjet passives could one day overcome conventional fabrication methods.
Date of AwardDec 2015
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorAtif Shamim (Supervisor)


  • Inkjet
  • Passive
  • Radio Frequency
  • Alumina
  • 3D Printing
  • Capacitor

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