Compostable displays for sustainable electronics

KIT Researchers Develop Printed Display That Is Biodegradable - Publication in Journal of Materials Chemistry

The biodegradable display can be worn directly on the hand due to its adaptability and adhesion. (Photo: Manuel Pietsch, KIT)

The biodegradable display can be worn directly on the hand due to its adaptability and adhesion. (Photo: Manuel Pietsch, KIT)

In the coming years the increasing use of electronic devices in everyday objects as well as new technologies in connection with the Internet of Things threaten to increase the production of electronic waste. A more environmentally friendly production and a more sustainable life cycle are of crucial importance here in order to save resources and minimize waste. For the first time, scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have succeeded in producing displays whose biodegradability has been independently tested and confirmed. They have published their results in the Journal of Materials Chemistry (DOI: 10.1039 / d0tc04627b)

“With our development, we were able to show for the first time that it is possible to manufacture sustainable displays from predominantly natural materials using industrially relevant production methods. After use, they therefore do not contribute to electronic waste, on the contrary, they can be composted. In combination with recycling and reusability, this could help to minimize or even prevent some of the environmental impacts of electronic scrap, ”says Manuel Pietsch, first author of the publication and researcher at the Light Technology Institute (LTI) of KIT at the InnovationLab in Heidelberg, describing the advantages of the new Development.

Low energy consumption, simple component architecture

The function of the display is based on the so-called electrochromic effect of the organic raw material used. If a voltage is applied to it, this leads to a changed absorption of light and thus to a color change in the material. Electrochromic displays distinguish themselves from commercially available displays such as LEDs, LCDs and e-paper by their low energy consumption and simple component architecture. Another advantage: These displays can be produced using the inkjet printing process and thus enable customized, cost-effective and material-efficient production. In addition, this method is also suitable for scaling processes with high throughput. The materials used are mainly of natural origin or biocompatible.

Use in medical diagnostics and food packaging

The display is generally suitable for short-lived applications as an indicator for sensors or simple displays in various areas. Especially in diagnostic applications where hygiene plays an important role, the sensors and their indicators have to be laboriously cleaned or disposed of after each use. In the case of the newly developed display, there is no electronic waste; it can simply be composted. The display could also be used as a compact display for quality-monitoring sensors in the area of packaging for foodstuffs that may not be reused. The digital printing process also enables individual adaptation to people or complicated shapes without expensive process redesign, which again saves resources.

"As far as we know, the first demonstration of an inkjet-printed, biodegradable display can therefore encourage sustainable innovations in other electronic components and thus pave the way to more environmentally friendly electronics," says Gerardo Hernandez-Sosa, Head of the Printed Electronics Group at LTI am InnovationLab in Heidelberg.

Original publication :
Manuel Pietsch, Stefan Schlisske, Martin Held, Noah Strobel, Alexander Wieczorek, Gerardo Hernandez-Sosa: Biodegradable inkjet-printed electrochromic display for sustainable short-lifecycle electronics. Journal of Materials Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039 / d0tc04627b!divAbstract

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