Researchers at a German University are developing printed electronics from biodegradable materials. As interest in printed and flexible electronics grows, so do piles of e-waste. The research group from the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) is studying various materials to assess their potential in printed electronics. In their lab, they test potential materials to measure the electrical properties and to analyze which materials have the right combination of properties for printing circuits.
In effort to address environmental concerns, researchers have recently noted that natural, compostable materials could replace the silicon or metallic substrates that are typically used in electronic devices. Even a team from the University of Wisconsion-Madison recently developed transistors derived from wood. Now the German researchers are developing biodegradable inks that have the just the right properties for printing circuits (they must be conductive and viscous without clogging printers). The KIT team is working on semiconductors and dyes made of plant extracts such as starches and cellulose, as well as insulators made out of gelatin.
These may not be as long-lived as the inorganic alternatives, but they easily survive the service life of disposable electronics.