The Future of Sustainable Wearable Electronics

The Future of Sustainable Wearable Electronics

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Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at UNIST reached a milestone in sustainable wearable devices.

The team’s revolutionary method enables closed-loop recycling of organic electronic materials, addressing environmental concerns and paving the way for a sustainable future in the electronic device industry.

According to innovation news site Techxplore, the synthesis of organic electronic materials has historically been associated with hazardous and toxic by-products and significant environmental and economic costs. However, this new research has unlocked the potential for recycling and repurposing organic conductors and semiconductors in an eco-friendly and economical way.

The closed-loop recycling incorporates eco-friendly solvents like water, anisole, and acetone throughout the fabrication and recycling processes. By eliminating the reliance on harmful substances, this innovation represents a significant movement towards sustainable manufacturing and recycling practices for organic flexible electronic devices.

In order to demonstrate their invention, the team created a range of recyclable organic flexible electronic devices with electrophysiological sensing electrodes, keypads, heaters/temperature sensors, electrochemical transistors, and inverters. They even reconstructed various organic flexible electronics using recycled materials from different functional devices, establishing a sustainable device cycle.

The recyclability of the organic electronic materials was thoroughly tested and yielded remarkable results- organic conductors could be recycled more than five times, organic insulating gels could be reused more than 30 times, and organic semiconductors showed a recycling potential of approximately one cycle.

Professor Kyoseung Sim, who led the team of researchers, said that the study offers the first solution to the environmental challenges posed by the use of organic electronic materials in the electronics industry, adding: “The outcomes of this research are expected to be a pivotal milestone and a key technology that shapes the future of sustainable electronic devices.”