Innovate. Invent. Experiment. In this series, Imperial alumni tell us what they are working on.
Illustration: Mike Lemanski
Matt Johnson (MSc Industrial Design Engineering 2009)
Bare Conductive is a printed electronics company. That means we’re interested in creating electronics on unusual substrates (underlying materials or surfaces) and putting them in unexpected places for a variety of applications, from sensing the presence of an insect to turning a wall into an interactive touch screen.
We have a material called Electric Paint that looks like any other paint but when you apply it to a surface and let it dry, it conducts electricity. That’s because it contains a conductor that forms a solid network when it dries, which allows electrons to travel. We also have hardware (circuit boards) that connects to the paint to enable all sorts of exciting functions.
My co-founders also studied Industrial Design Engineering at Imperial: Chief Operating Officer Bibi Nelson (2009), Chief Creative Officer Isabel Lizardi (2009) and Product Manager Rebecca Pilditch (MEng Mechanical Engineering 2007, MSc Industrial Design Engineering 2010). We were working on a project about exploring electronics in unexpected places such as in textiles or architecture and we realised that the barrier to those applications wasn’t conceptual, it was technical. So we thought, OK, how would you paint electronics onto things?
Three things keep me going: selling the technology directly to consumers, engineers and designers, which provides tons of interactions with really smart people; the challenge and excitement of building relationships with large corporations; and working with a great team from different disciplines, which is fantastic fun.
Short term, our goal is to help more companies build this technology into their products. Long term, we want to show that printed electronics as an industry is extremely valuable. We think it will have a role in the home and in the Internet of Things in general that hasn’t yet been explored, because it allows profoundly low-cost devices to be made of materials that aren’t usually associated with electronic products and that live in places other electronics can’t live. There’s so much potential.
Matt Johnson is CEO and co-founder of Bare Conductive, a design and technology company making products that integrate electronics directly into the environment.