New Biodegradable Papertronics

New Biodegradable Papertronics

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As the need for biodegradable electronics is growing increasingly urgent, Professor Seokheun “Sean” Choi from Binghamton University decided to look into the idea of integrated papertronics. He published a paper in Advanced Sustainable Systems that could potentially revolutionize how we monitor the world around us.

Choi explains the challenges of this development: “The biggest problem with paper for electronics is that the paper is highly porous and rough…These properties are very helpful for paperfluidics, because those devices require high surface area and roughness—but for electronics, they pose a critical challenge.”

According to Techxplore, most previous papertronics have used laminated paper with electronic components affixed to them to mitigate some of those issues, a method that maintains the flexibility that paper has but does not fully utilize what the material offers.

Choi worked with Ph.D. students Zahra Rafiee and Anwar Elhadad to develop a solution using a combination of functional inks, the capillary action that distributes the inks within the paper, and hydrophobic wax patterns that form the boundaries for the circuits. These paper circuits can then be folded and stacked, allowing for completely biodegradable multilayered printed circuit boards.

Choi claimed this new manufacturing method is a major improvement from the previous version of printed paper circuit boards of 2022, which had all of the components integrated into a single sheet of paper that was flexible and disposable, but the components were not tunable. “We couldn’t have specific resistance values or capacitor values. We also had to use some nonbiodegradable material.”

Choi and his team are reportedly already thinking about the next steps for making their papertronics ready for wider use. “We need to think of some packaging techniques to encapsulate our device for long-term operation,” said Choi. “We also are creating other types of electronic components like inductors, diodes or displays. We need to improve the density and performance, too.”