University of Missouri researchers are using organic components in screen displays to develop biodegradable electronics. The researchers’ advancements could one day help reduce e-waste in the world’s landfills.
The Missouri researchers collaborated with a team from the Federal University of ABC (UFABC) in Brazil to develop organic semiconductors that could be used to light handheld device screens. Using peptides, or proteins, researchers demonstrated that when combined with a blue light-emitting polymer (top layer, pictured), the tiny organic structures could successfully be used in displays.
The peptides assemble into nanostructures or nanotubes (gray layer, pictured), which can be used as templates for other materials.
To make a workable screen for a mobile phone or other display, the researchers will need to show similar success with red and green light-emitting polymers.
The scientists also discovered that by using peptide nanostructures, they were able to use less of the polymer, which means the nanocomposites achieve almost 85 percent biodegradability.
The study, Self-Assembled Peptide-Polyfluorene Nanocomposites for Biodegradable Organic Electronics, was published in Advanced Materials Interfaces.
The United Nations University says global e-waste topped 41.8 million metric tons of electrical and electronic products in 2014, and less than one-sixth of that is thought to have been diverted to proper recycling and reuse.