Traditional electrical wires have had a good run since their development. But what if you could just slap some paint on a surface to create the circuit you're after? Thanks to one London-based company, Bare Conductive, you can.
A paint like no other
Bare Conductive's primary product--recently highlighted by Mashable, among other outlets--is a thick, gooey black paint that includes carbon. The carbon in the mixture means that, when you apply the paint and allow it to dry properly, the paint is able to conduct electricity. It comes in a tube, jar and tub and can be applied with any standard tool, such as brushes, rollers, pens or rollers. It's also non-toxic and can work on a range of surfaces, including wood, cement, paper and even textiles. Finally, the paint is water soluble, so if you happen to make a mistake, want to change your design or have an accidental spill, it's totally not a big deal.
Tech, art or whatever else you can imagine
The conductive paint got its start in 2009 when Becky Pilditch, Matt Johnson, Isabel Lizardi and Bibi Nelson were exploring how to get an electrical circuit on the human body at the Royal College of Art. Because of regulations within the cosmetic industry, the team eventually decided to focus on the product more as paintable wire. You can use it, for example, within domestic electronics. As a result, the paint has gotten considerable attention within the tech industry.
The fact Bare Conductive's paint doesn't focus on skin anymore hasn't stopped people from using the paint in expressive, artistic ways, however. Painters and dancers have used it, for example, to create canvases and performances that come alive with human touch. Greeting cards are still another venue.
But why pick conductive paint over regular wire?
One of the biggest advantages of the conductive paint is its ability to save space. For example, as a comparison, engineers put flat metal pathways on the surface of modern circuit boards. That "simple" advancement has enabled engineers to reduce the size of other electrical components, which has made countless products easier to store, transport and use in a practical way. And unlike conventional wires, engineers or the average Joe/Jane can create circuits that are custom sized based on need--there's no limitation based on dimensions available. A flat, painted "wire" also can't get tangled or become disconnected, which has longevity, functional and aesthetic considerations.
Of course, anybody who uses Bare Conductive's paint has to stay mindful of basic electrical concepts. Heat is a byproduct of electricity, for instance, so lower voltage applications (12V DC or less) are better. The company explicitly states this on their website and in their application notes. If you're thinking about using the paint in a project and aren't sure if it will meet your specifications, review those notes more closely or make an inquiry. As long as you're safe, let your imagination run wild.