Gold leaf circuit board

Ah, the glitter of gold… or fake gold, we’re not really sure. But [Mike Hogan] and [PJ Santoro] have been working with faux gold leaf as a conductor on circuit boards. The device you see above is mounted on metal-covered paper substrate and it really works.

They started by applying spray adhesive to heavy paper to make the gold-clad they needed. This was cut down into hexagons in homage to their hackerspace, Hive76 in Philadelphia. From there the shape of the microcontroller (an MSP430 G2211 in this case) to prevent shorts under the chip. The leads were flattened to interface well with the gold contacts, and a hobby knife was used to score the traces. Some careful soldering made up the final connections, and they were in business.

Oh, wait; chip on board but nothing on chip. They forgot to program it first! Since there’s no header they needed an easy way to interface with the board. The clever guys used the power of magnets to hold alligator clips in place. See how they did that in the demo video after the break.

They’re also working on some boards that use conductive ink similar to this hack but we haven’t seen a write-up from these two about those experiments… yet.

22 thoughts on “Gold leaf circuit board

  1. “From there the shape of the microcontroller (an MSP430 G2211 in this case) to prevent shorts under the chip.”

    I think you accidentally something.

    1. Once again I submit that any HAD writer should send their post to one or more other HAD writers before posting for a basic grammar check. You are not posting anything sooooo cutting edge that a half hour delay for editing would ruin your post. Rather it would end the ongoing embarrassment and “gammar nazi” posts (like this one) that sloppy writing style propagates. If you want to be taken seriously, act professionally.

    1. Well, off the top of my head…
      1) When you run out of copper-clad
      2) Creating a circuit on a non-standard substrate, like cardboard or glass or tile
      3) “Etching” a circuit on an arbitrary shape that’s not flat. For example, a neat custom holiday ornament from one of those craft-store plastic orbs, with gold-leaf circuit traces on the outside. Pretty, and functional.

  2. I assume the faux gold leaf is aluminum, so soldering is out. But it can be etched with FeCl. Aluminized mylar printed circuits, anyone?

    Will have to remember the paperclip trick. Heck, I already use staples as short breadboard jumpers..

      1. Good to know, thanks!

        May I suggest that you add to the article that you *soldered* the MCU to the foil? Without that, both the mention of conductive paint at the top, and the magnetic attachments, tend to lead one to think that soldering to the foil isn’t possible.

  3. In my deformative youth, I found that ordinary pencil lead was conductive enough for high impedance circuits. I drew circuits on ordinary paper with a soft lead pencil, going over it several times to get the resistance low enough.

    The first ones used neon lights in R-C relaxation oscillators. The resistors looked just like the schematic symbol for resistors. :-) The capacitors were a filled-in block on both sides of the paper (one side for each plate). Paper clips were used to attach wires, and as ‘feedthrus’.

    Scotch magic tape made a better capacitor dielectric than paper (higher breakdown voltage). It is also piezoelectric; a neon oscillator made with such a capacitor makes an audible sound!

    The coming of CMOS opened new possibilities. You can draw your circuit with pencil on paper, and punch the leads of a thru-hole DIP into it to make connections. Due to the nearly infinite impedance of CMOS inputs, it works! :-) Just don’t expect high speeds or high currents in those pencil traces. :-)

    1. Not quite as easy a medium on which to score the traces, I’d imagine. But, you reminded me that I’ve got copper tape among my gardening supplies to play with.

  4. One of the interesting qualities of gold foil, at least REAL gold foil, is that it sticks to itself. If you want to fill in a gap, you can just rub some more on over the hole.

    I find it absolutely astonishing how little gold is required to make a ton of gold foil, too. It can be stretched quite far indeed.

      1. Har har har

        You both know I meant ton in the “large quantity” colloquial sense, not the weights and measures sense.

        You can make a large quantity of gold foil with a very small amount of gold.

        Of course, electroplating allows it to be stretched even further, and saves hours of manpower, as the best gold foil is still beaten out by hand.

      2. Oh, and a literal ton of gold leaf will cover around 1600 acres of surface area, give or take based on the thickness of the foil and karat. :s

  5. “I find it absolutely astonishing how little gold is required to make a ton of gold foil”

    I’d guess it would take somewhere around a ton of gold to make a ton of gold foil. Is it a lot less than that?

    1. Yes, but the point you’re missing is that 1 ton of gold leaf could make a square approximately 42 feet by 42 feet of gold leaf, with the think 20gram outdoor version of gold leaf.

    2. Sorry, I accidentally forgotskies a number:

      For 39.5sq ft of gold leave is 1 PACK, or 500 (85mm*85mm) sheets. 1 Ton of gold is 3 527 535 square feet, or about 81 acres of gold leaf.

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