If you are having trouble making your DIY conductive paint, watch our video below. You can also buy conductive paint if it feels overwhelming, but really, you can’t mess up this two-ingredient DIY cheap conductive paint recipe!
Working with circuits can be difficult, especially when you are creating circuits with kids, and want to find a safe alternative to breaking out the soldering iron.
To get around the soldering iron we have to give up on the conductivity at the connections or joints between two pieces of copper tape or between copper tape and metal legs. Adding electrically conductive paint to these joints can help your circuit function better.
The copper tape has an adhesive on one side of it. This is what makes it stick to the paper as you put together your light up cards or conducting critters. When you join the copper tape together, there is a thin layer of this adhesive that the electrons have to make their way through.
To get around this thin layer of adhesive we could opt to solder the two pieces together, but that would require a soldering iron, which is not safe in very young hands and needs a lot of oversight in moderately young hands. I started teaching my daughter soldering when she was 5, but it is certainly a very careful activity with a lot of layers of protection for her.
Another way to get around the thin layer of adhesive is to try and use only two pieces of copper tape, that you bend and curve around the circuit diagram. This can also be troublesome, especially for younger hands. The way you bend the copper tape is important, and it doesn’t solve the issue of the joint between the copper tape and any metal legs.
There are a few products out there similar to gels that are known as electrically conductive paint. These premade gels often work better than the conductive paint we will make, but ours is far cheaper. It is the difference between about $37 per ounce and $1.40 per ounce.
For me, that is a huge win. I run a ton of community programs and teach afterschool science around the area, so the thought of it being 25x cheaper is huge. Another reason why I prefer making my own conductive paint?
That means kids can be around it repeatedly and no one needs to worry about any hazardous side effects. Some of the electrically conductive paints online have their own MSDS sheets. Others use various solvents that can be smelly – certain types never fail to give me a migraine.
I have no idea what commercially available conductive paint manufacturers use in their products, but I have come up with a recipe that works for the circuits my kids make. All it uses is Elmer’s glue and powdered graphite.
I currently have no idea, but I am always on the lookout for a better recipe and will update this post if I find one! One idea is to add metal filings to the mix, although then I would run into worrying that kids would get metal splinters.
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