Your Paper Notebook Could Become Your Next Tablet

Author: Chris Adam
Hands holding a number keypad printed on paper
Engineers, lead by Ramses Martinez, developed a simple printing process that renders any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad or other easy-to-use human-machine interfaces. (Image provided)
Innovators from Purdue Industrial Engineering hope their new technology can help transform paper sheets from a notebook into a music player interface and make food packaging interactive.

Purdue engineers developed a simple printing process that renders any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad or other easy-to-use human-machine interfaces. This technology is published in the Aug. 23 edition of Nano Energy. Videos showing this technology are available [Moisture insensitivity and rapid cleaning of a flexible, wireless RF SPE keyboard, 35 sec.], [Triboelectric power generation & wireless data transmission on RF-SPE keypad during user interaction, 14 sec], and [Wireless RF-SPE music player controls recognizing touch and drag gestures, 24 sec.] 

“This is the first time a self-powered paper-based electronic device is demonstrated,” said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “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.”

Martinez said this innovation facilitates the fabrication of vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, since they harvest the energy from their contact with the user.

This technology is compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes and could easily be implemented to rapidly convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface.

“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,” Martinez said. “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.”

Martinez and his team have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercializationto patent some of his technologies related to robots and other design innovations. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundationis a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact for more information.      

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Chris Adam,

Sources: Ramses V. Martinez,

Marina Sala de Medeiros,



Moisture-insensitive, Self-powered Paper-based Flexible Electronics

Marina Sala de Medeiros, Daniela Chanci and Ramses V. Martinez

The fabrication of multifunctional electronic devices on ubiquitous paper substrates is gaining considerable attention due to their low cost, environmental friendliness, light weight, and flexibility. Unfortunately, the development of paper-based electronics is subject to significant challenges, such as rapid degradation with moisture, battery dependence, and limited compatibility with existing mass production technologies. This work describes omniphobic, self-powered paper-based electronics (RF SPEs), completely wireless paper-based electronic devices insensitive to moisture, liquid stains, and dust. RF SPEs can be rapidly fabricated through the sequential spray-deposition of alkylated organosilanes, conductive nanoparticles, polytetrafluoroethylene (strong electron affinity), and ethyl cellulose (weak electron affinity) over the surface of cellulose paper. RF SPEs are lightweight, inexpensive to print (<$0.25 per device), and capable of generating power densities up to 300 µW/cm2. Additionally, RF SPEs are flexible and exhibit excellent stability upon folding (0.3 mm radius of curvature). The simple printing process and relative low cost of RF SPEs enable the large-scale production of self-powered paper-based electronics towards the ubiquitous integration of human-machine interfaces.