Creating the world's first printed electronics that can be completely recycled

The Duke University engineers have produced the world's first fully recyclable printed electronics Their original solution replaces the use of injurious chemicals with water during the manufacturing process, reducing the environmental influence and probable health risks related to the use of hazardous chemicals This demonstration opens a new path for the industry to follow in reducing their environmental and health footprint, the research was recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

world's first printed electronics

One of the major hurdles for electronics manufacturers is successfully securing several layers of components on top of each other, which is critical to the production of high-end devices. This can be a challenging task, especially for printed electronics, where ensuring proper devotion of layers is often a source of defeat.

"Putting the layers on top of each other isn't as easy as putting them down on their own — but that's what you have to do if you want to build electronic devices with print," explained Aaron Franklin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University, who led the study. Science Daily.

In previous work, Franklin and his group demonstrated the first fully recyclable printed electronics. The devices used three carbon inks: semiconducting carbon nanotubes, conductive graphene, and insulating Nanocellulose. In an attempt to adapt the original process to use only water, carbon nanotubes posed the biggest challenge.

To make an aqueous ink in which the carbon nanotubes do not clump together and spread evenly over the surface, a detergent-like surfactant is added. However, the resulting ink does not create a layer of carbon nanotubes dense enough for a high current of electrons to flow through.

Franklin has already demonstrated that nearly 100% of the carbon nanotubes and graphene used in printing can be recovered and reused in the same process, resulting in very little material loss or workability, and since Nanocellulose is made from wood, it can simply be recycled. Or it decomposes like paper, and although the process uses a lot of water, it's not nearly as much as needed to deal with the toxic chemicals used in traditional manufacturing methods.

The United Nations estimates that less than a quarter of the millions of pounds of discarded electronics are recycled each year, and the problem will only get worse as the world eventually upgrades to 6G devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand, so any dent that can be made on that mountain The growing amount of e-trash is important to keep track of.

While more work needs to be done, Franklin says the approach could be used to manufacture other electronic components such as displays and screens that are now ubiquitous in society. Each electronic display contains a reinforced board of thin-film transistors similar to those shown in the paper.


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