Printable electronics although very useful have up to now been impractical as they can not be used on complicated textures and shapes such as human skin. This may all change thanks to a team led by Penn State researchers that has conceived of a method to print biodegradable electronics on a variety of complex geometries.
"We are trying to enable direct fabrication of circuits on freeform, 3D geometries," Huanyu "Larry" Cheng, Dorothy Quiggle Career Development Professor in Penn State's Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM), told TechXplore. "Printing on complicated objects can allow a future Internet of Things where circuits can connect various objects around us, whether they be smart home sensors, robots performing complex tasks together, or devices placed on the human body."
The technique is low-cost and low-heat but most importantly it is eco-friendly because it is biodegradable.
"Our electronics upgrade every two years or so, and this creates a huge amount of electronic waste," Cheng said. "When we look at the future, if our electronics are green enough to be flushed down the toilet, their use will be much better for the environment."
The method does not use expensive equipment like vacuum chambers making it much faster and cost-efficient compared to other electronics printing techniques. Its biodegradability also improves the security of any device it's used on.
"If your device is only encrypted with software, it can always be cracked and there's a potential leak for information," said Cheng. "This biodegradable device can be physically destroyed so that data can't be recovered; it presents a unique opportunity that can't be addressed by traditional silicon devices."
But don't let that scare you. Should you want to keep your data forever, the team has also conceived of a way to make the biodegradable circuits permanent by submerging the printed surfaces into solutions containing copper or silver.
The study is published in Material Today.