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Picture of Conductive Paint
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The goal of this experiment was to try to find an alternative to commercially available conductive paint. It is incredible stuff but expensive. I've read other Instructables like Makerboat's $1 Conductive Ink and IceCats' Paper Electronics. They helped me arrive at my own recipe, which uses only two ingredients but I think my testing is more reliable.

To make the winning recipe you need:

  • Graphite powder*
  • Acrylic paint
  • A jar with an airtight seal

To complete every test you need:

  • Elmer's Glue-All
  • Titebond III Wood Glue
  • Acrylic paint
  • Wire Glue (tm)
  • Graphite powder
  • 4 wooden toothpicks
  • 4 jars with airtight seals
  • Paper
  • Ohmmeter
  • 2 zip ties

*Be careful with graphite powder because inhalation can lead to respiratory problems.

 
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Step 1: Glue-All and Graphite Sample

Picture of Glue-All and Graphite Sample
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For the first recipe graphite powder was mixed with Elmer's Glue-All until the consistency was spreadable. Be careful when adding the glue because squeezing the bottle will shoot a blast of air into the jar and graphite powder will blow everywhere. The third picture illustrates this.

The ratio was:

  • 2 parts Elmer's Glue-All
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was fluid but very thick. It could still be used as an adhesive.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

Step 2: Titebond III and Graphite Sample

Picture of Titebond III and Graphite Sample
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The second recipe was Titebond III and graphite powder.

The ratio was :

  • 1 part Titebond III
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was fluid but not runny.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

Step 3: Acrylic Paint and Graphite Sample

Picture of Acrylic Paint and Graphite Sample
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The third recipe was acrylic paint and graphite powder.

The ratio was:

  • 1 part acrylic paint
  • 1 part graphite powder

The result was slightly thicker than paint.

Two lines were drawn with the toothpick. One thin line and one thick line. The toothpick was wiped off on the side of the jar and allowed to dry next to the lines.

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I made a 50/50 mix of graphite powder and acrylic paint and I am getting /absolutely no ohm reading off of it. I don't understand! What could be going wrong??

24Eng (author)  chloe.stamper1 month ago

How is your meter set up? Can you take a picture?

I think I got it now. I added more graphite and stirred it more. I made it a day prior to painting and I think it may have settled. Seems to be working on the test strip I did a few minutes ago. I did a few more test spots before I commit to painting all the conductive points in the design.

24Eng (author)  chloe.stamper1 month ago

Awesome! Will you show your results here?

sbergstc1 month ago

Thank you for your thoughtful comments :o) There's not much of an "instructable"... Just floor polish and graphite powder in equal parts or until fluid enough to brush the object's surface. The liquid product is a floor "polish" NOT a cleaning/polishing product... Future Floor Polish is what I looked for, but it's no longer available. I believe the replacement product is Pledge Floor Polish by Johnson & Johnson. The graphite powder is EZSlide by Van Sickle Paint and is also available in sizes up to 5 lbs. The graphite and the floor polish were purchased at Mills Fleet Farm; 16 oz. for $6.29 and floor polish at $7.49. The graphite can be found online as well as stores like Tractor Supply, Farm & Fleet, and maybe at a few local hardware stores (Ace, TruValue, etc.).

If I ever put together an "Instructable", I will let you know. More importantly, I would like to mention that this is not my original idea. I found the information about using floor polish with graphite on the internet during some lengthy searches to find a good quality home-made conductive paint for electroforming. How I also found your Instructable, actually. This other person suggested floor wax would be a good liquid component due to it's water-repellent properties, especially for the purpose of electroforming.

Lastly, would you be so kind as to answer my first question about what resistance your ohmmeter was set? ie, x10, x100, x1k etc.? My meter has x10, x100, and x1k? My resistance at 1k is .50 to .75 and I think this is pretty good, yes?

Thanks again...

24Eng (author)  sbergstc1 month ago

I think it would make a great Instructable! People may be curious what you used to stir the concoction or how long you dried it. Plus you can show off some of the things you've metallized. Right now your recipe is tucked away in this comment thread. You certainly have all the knowledge to make it.

It seemed like you had figured out your meter so I didn't answer. You read 0.5KΩ, or 500Ω. Setting your meter to "1K" was correct. My meter had a different scale so it was set to different scales in different pictures but always measuring kiloohms. The resistance you got can't be directly compared because we don't know that the gap between our probes was the same. BUT, since they look pretty similar and you clearly got good results it's pretty safe to say that your reading is comparable. Your water resistant recipe did get good conductivity. Perhaps if you make an Instructable you can experiment with different ratios and graph the results. Like a science fair project!

Thank you for finding AND PROVING a water resistant conductive paint.

sbergstc 24Eng1 month ago

Thanks... Maybe I will make an Instructable in the future. Right now I'm busy making EF "things" for jewelry purposes. I never thought I had much interest in Science, but this has been fun and not too expensive. Did you know you can also use the electroforming process to "electro-ETCH"? Oh yeah, I'll be trying that next. Might be less messy than using ferric chloride (etchant) and since I already have the setup... Not a big change just reverse the polarity of the rectifier clamps and adjust the voltage... oh don't get me started :)

Take care,

SBerg

sbergstc1 month ago

For electroforming purposes, I'm experimenting with a floor wax/graphite powder mixture that shows a .5k ohm (analog meter; dial set to 1k) resistance with 2-3 coats (pretty thick) and is water resistant/waterproof for at least 8+ hours. I half filled a 1 oz. jar with Halloway QuickShine Floor Finish and added enough graphite powder (EZ Slide) until it was a desired consistency. The shell pictured is my first ever attempt at electroforming and results were OK, but I think will improve with a thinner coating of the paint. This one had a few coats as I wasn't getting the results I wanted and kept repainting. My impatience was the problem. Once I sat back and left the shell alone the electroforming process worked fine. This coating took between 6 & 8 hours.

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24Eng (author)  sbergstc1 month ago

Interesting choice for a medium. And fantastic. I am so glad you posted your results. If you can make an Instructable for your recipe I bet a lot of people would appreciate it. It seems like you've read the comments on this page and electroforming is sought after. The waterproof feature is really important, as you know, so I bet you would make some people happy. The shell looks great!
Since you've already proven your recipe works for electrofmrning works I would be more than happy to link to your Instructable once it is published.

hyun ho1 month ago

why you use this glue as a solvent? and is it okay to use a powdered metal instead of graphite?

24Eng (author)  hyun ho1 month ago

I used glue and paint as the mediums because they are very easy to buy. Several people have asked about powered metal and I think it would work well but there are more safety concerns when working with powered metal. If you take good precautions I would be excited to hear if you have good luck with powered metal. Good luck and be safe!

sbergstc1 month ago

Hi...

Can you tell me at what resistance your ohmmeter is set? ie, x10, x100, etc.? I'm trying to make a comparison to a graphite/floorwax mixture I'm testing. My meter has x10, x100, and x1k.

Thx,

Sberg

Great Stuff

24Eng (author)  frankieedgar1 month ago
Thank you.
AdrienD1 month ago

This is a great discussion! I had a few ideas as I read through the comments.


Since the medium carrying the pigments reduces conductivity, would it not be possible to apply a metal powder and water mix to a surface and bake it at high temperatures so that it fuses sort of like how a glaze works with pottery? A lead powder might work since it has a low melting point... though the fumes are dangerous.

Second though: I am wondering if one were to paint the glue on first and while it is still tackly "roll" the object in graphite or other metal powders so as to create a surface that is un-impeaded by the medium and therefore more conductive.

Also, I have read that burnishing a conductive ink/ paint increases the conductivity as well as applying the paint when in a magnetic field. This alines the fields in the graphite molecules. For example. place a large magnet under the piece of paper you are drawing circuits on.

I am still trying to figure out a way of electroplating plastics. Any advice would be great.
Cheers!

biomorphics3 months ago

Thinking of making this using copper powder as I would be using it for electroforming and all the paints I have seen for that are either copper or silver based. I'll see how it goes!

24Eng (author)  biomorphics3 months ago

Definitely post your results here. Where you do you buy copper powder?

biomorphics 24Eng2 months ago

http://www.onlinesciencemall.com/copper-powder-pure-laboratory-chemical-reagent-30g.html?utm_source=gpla&utm_campaign=ProductListingAds&gclid=CjwKEAiA28ilBRCy5cXrgtfTxTISJABgX7E2ZRgf5VbAVMM1O7PyVijA6bXG-i0IwKa4Whojkj3rjRoCPvjw_wcB

24Eng (author)  biomorphics2 months ago

The idea of powdered metals makes me nervous because they can be flammable and I don't always work in a very controlled manner. This is really a problem on my own part. Thank you for putting this resource here because I really believe that a more conductive medium, like metal, would create a more conductive paint. Maybe someone will make it and let us know if it's waterproof!
Also, that powdered copper is cheaper than I thought it would be so that's encouraging.

24Eng (author)  biomorphics2 months ago

The idea of powdered metals makes me nervous because they can be flammable and I don't always work in a very controlled manner. This is really a problem on my own part. Thank you for putting this resource here because I really believe that a more conductive medium, like metal, would create a more conductive paint. Maybe someone will make it and let us know if it's waterproof!
Also, that powdered copper is cheaper than I thought it would be so that's encouraging.

Peraloca2 months ago

Judging for the results, this is more a resistive paint than a conductive paint, you get similar results drawing a heavy line on a paper with a soft graphite pencil. Anyway, thank you for sharing your ideas and your experiences, they are invaluable.

24Eng (author)  Peraloca2 months ago

What do you mean more resistive than conductive?
You are certainly correct about drawing a heavy line with a graphite pencil!

jbhensoniii5 months ago

Im trying to paint a room to protect against EMF-Microwave radiation from cellphone towers and looking for a low cost alternative to paints you buy from other companies.They work but I dont have the cash to fork out 89 dollars a liter, however I want to protect my 3 year old from the radiation.

Maybe you can use "Polyfoil" (The kind of metal shining envelope used to wrap gifts). It is far more conductive than any conductive paint, or maybe you can find something useful here.

http://www.lessemf.com/fabric.html

I hope this can be helpful for you.

24Eng (author)  jbhensoniii5 months ago

nevtxjustin posted a couple links below to some inexpensive graphite based paint which he or she claims is conductive.

I will repost the links here but nevtxjustin deserves credit for them.

http://www.vansicklepaint.com/ezslide/

and you can buy it from TSC

http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/ez-slide-gra...

winkleink made it!4 months ago

Made and used this for glowing LED cards for Halloween with my kids. Worked great.

Used 50g Acrylic Paint and 20g Graphite Powder. Also, have a batch that's 50/25 that also works. 50/20 for me gives the best balance between conductivity and ease of painting.

Really has to dry out before it's conductive. I used a hair dryer as the kids wanted instant results.

Painting it on with a stiff bristle brush works best. Fine brushes like water colour brushes have a problem with the thick consistency of the paint. Doesn't have to be an expensive brush just stiff bristles.

Thank you for doing this instructable,

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24Eng (author)  winkleink4 months ago
Thanks for sharing your cool cards. I'm glad you got some mileage from this paint and I appreciate that you even included your proportions.
M4n0v3y made it!6 months ago

It really works! I used acrylic resin and that glue that shoemakers uses to fix shoes ( I don't know the name of this in English... Glue for footwear). My formula allows to apply a post process of electrolysis for deploy a fine layer of copper over the circuit.

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24Eng (author)  M4n0v3y6 months ago

That's awesome!
What kind of consistency does it have? What proportions did you use?
A lot of people will be grateful to see your work.

M4n0v3y 24Eng6 months ago
Hello!

I am about to publish a flat cable and a flexible circuit project based in this conductive paint. In this publish I will describe the detailed process to produce the tint.

It will be published very soon!
24Eng (author)  M4n0v3y6 months ago

Awesome. I'm so pleased this could help you make your own project. Be sure to post a link here and you might even be able to put it in the Remix Contest.

lazemaple7 months ago

so can this conductive paint be used for electroforming or electroplating?

KROKKENOSTER7 months ago

Now a person must now just get the formula consistent and then make your own resistors and circuits now how will I be able to solder this!!

24Eng (author)  KROKKENOSTER7 months ago

Agreed. Consistency wasn't the focus here and when my results were clearly in favor of one ingredient it didn't seem important. Now the key will be to fine tune the ingredient proportions like you said to get reliable and predictable results. Soldering isn't necessary, you simply apply the paint over your leads and it holds it like glue.
Metal powder has been discussed a few times in previous comments and I agree, metal is definitely a superior conductor but more dangerous to work with because it can ignite explosively. Aluminum has been shown to do that anyhow. Graphite powder is also available at many hardware stores so it's easy for anyone reading to get a hold of. I like the way you think!

o4orsum7 months ago
Nice to see such a methodical approach
24Eng (author)  o4orsum7 months ago

Thank you. High school science class is where it all started. That was two decades ago!

KROKKENOSTER7 months ago

If a person can get METAL dust like lead aluminium copper etcetera as the conductor and make this substance so that it is JUST workable and then add a volatile liquid like alcohol laquer thinners or the like and then make your conductor like that. I am just speculating as my knowledge of this is not that hot but they will be better conductors than carbon

thinkpadt308 months ago

Very nice and easy-to-follow 'ible that was nicely laid out like a science experiment. It sure made experimenting with conductive paint a real possibility, and inexpensive, too. For some reason, Instructibles would not allow me to reply to the comment about using aluminum powder. When I was in high school, I used a mixture of aluminum powder and sulfur powder to power a rocket I constructed. It was a pretty powerful propellant. 4 oz of the mixture electrically ignited with 6 volts propelled a 10 oz rocket about 50 yards from about a 30 degree ramp, so I definitely would recommend that if you must try aluminum powder, to use caution, especially working with electricity. Even a shorted AAA battery can generate a fairly intense heat, far more than is needed to ignite the correct mixture of aluminum and sulfur. Sulfur is an ingredient in many common products, and you never know if it can be leached to combine with the aluminum. Just sayin'.

24Eng (author)  thinkpadt308 months ago

I have appreciated how many people with chemistry knowledge have come to this experiment. Chemistry is not my strong suit and more thoughts are always appreciated. It's also great how you are able to relate your experience in rocketry into conductive paint. Thank you for your words of caution as well.

thickmike8 months ago

I used to be a paint chemist. We found that conductivity depends on the fineness of the black pigment and the degree of dispersion. There are special fine pigments used e.g. Ketjen Black (https://www.akzonobel.com/polymeradditives/our_products/superconductive_carbon_blacks/) they have a very high surface area per gramme. Also grinding the pigment will give better results. High shear and wetting agents(surfactants) are needed to wet the pigment out (think more of a pestle and mortar rather than a cocktail stick in a pot). Viscosity can be reduced by adding water to water based paints or a suitable solvent.

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