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The inventors have developed a process for the deposition of conductive layers of nanocomposites by physical abrasion onto patterned surfaces. This method offers precise control over location, thickness, and other structural features of the resulting nanostructures, which greatly extends its capabilities for the fabrication of functional sensors, circuits and tags. Sensors are fabricated by abrasion of compressed single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and compressed graphite onto laser-etched plastic and paper. This approach produces sensors that are able to detect a wide variety of analytes in part-per-million concentrations.

Other methods, such as chemical etching, scratching, and nanoindentation can be used to generate patterns that guide abrasion of carbon-based materials into pre-defined locations. The choice of substrate includes glass, polymers of any kind, paper, metal, skin, leaves and wood, among others. This method of selective deposition of materials can be extended to small molecules, metals, nanoparticles, and conductive polymers.