US patent application numbers 2009036012 and 2009036015 both relate to conductive webs co-formed by combining pulp fibres with conductive fibres. According to Kimberly-Clarke another six applications are in the pipeline. Some of the potential uses described in the patent applications include:
the conductive nonwoven material may be incorporated into any suitable electronic device. For instance, the nonwoven web can be used as a fuel cell membrane, as a battery electrode, or may be used in printed electronics. For example, in one particular embodiment, the conductive fibers may form a patterned circuit within the base webs for any suitable end use application.
It looks to me as if the technology was developed for disposable nappies that have built in electronics to provide an alarm triggered when the nappy needs changing. Being able to offer low cost manufacture of a single-use printed electronics item is therefore key to the success of this design.
The conductive material is preferably carbon fibres, typically 3mm in length with a diameter of 5-10 microns.
Potential Benefits Summary:
- Constructed of cost-effective, commercially available raw materials: paper, carbon, synthetics
- Inexpensive manufacture and converting
- Conductive; capable of resistive heating, antenna and other electronic applications
- Geared to low-end, semi-durable and disposable applications — a consumable
- Holds promise as a flexible converting and end-use substrate
- Safe for use in consumer applications
A full technical description of the potential for this approach has been provided by Yet2.com