QUT researchers in Australia have come up with an impressive new technique that sees human hair waste recycled into flexible displays that may be used in smart devices. The scientists have succeeded in turning small hair strands into carbon nanodots, uniform dots that are one-millionth of a millimeter.
To produce the carbon nanodots, the researchers break down the hairs and then burn them at 240 degrees Celcius. The nanodots are then uniformly dispersed in a polymer.
They then further self-assemble to form small groupings of nanodots, also called “nano-islands”. These islands preserve the emission from a material in a solid-state and are used as an active layer in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) devices. This creates a device that can light up with a blue color when just a little voltage is applied.
“Waste is a big problem,” Associate Professor Prashant Sonar said in a statement.
“Human hair derived carbon dot-based organic light-emitting devices could be used for some indoor applications such as smart packaging. They could also be used where a small light source is required such as in signs or in smart bands and could be used in medical devices because of the non-toxicity of the material.”
Sonar added that the researchers chose hair as their source for the carbon dots because it is a natural source of carbon and nitrogen. He also wanted to prevent it from just ending up in landfills.
Sonar said the human hair-derived carbon nanodots do not glow bright enough to be able to be used in television screens. They are, however, powerful enough to be used in flexible screens, wearable devices, smart packaging, and more.
Now, the team is looking into other types of hair.
“We have proven it works for human hair. We’re now interested if we could get the same results from animal hair,” Sonar said
“Perhaps we could produce flexible OLEDs using small strands of wool from sheep or leftover dog hair from pet grooming salons.”