Smartphones and tablets, the biodegradable display arrives

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The University of Missouri is developing a screen with organic components. The goal: 100% recyclable electronics.

Nothing from the smartphone is to throw away. Or almost. In fact, many electronic components are recycled and reused, but a part still risks to end up in landfills. That’s why the University of Missouri has launched a project to develop biodegradable displays composed by organic elements. The researchers’ target is to reduce the percentage of e-waste that ends up in landfills. In the US alone, 150 million mobile phones are thrown away every year: each citizen replaces his device on average every 22 months.

Today’s smartphones are not biodegradable and generate a large amount of waste – explained Sachismita Guha, a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Missouri – Our researchers have created the first level of biodegradable electronics. This means that one day we can achieve 100% of biodegradability”.

Using peptides, researchers were able to demonstrate that these tiny structures, when combined with a blue light emitting polymer, can be used for displays.

“These peptides – said Guha – can self-assemble into beautiful nanostructures, which can be used as models for other materials. Combining organic semiconductors with nanomaterials, we were able to create the blue light necessary for screens. However, in order to have really useful displays for smartphones and tablets, we’ll have to show that the same mechanism also works with red and green light emitting polymers”.

Scientists have also found out that using peptide nanostructures, less polymers are used. Using less material to achieve the same amount of blue light means that nanocomposites reach almost 85% of biodegradability.

“Using 100% recyclable peptide nanostructures to create a model for the active layer of the polymers – Guha concludes – it’s possible to understand how all electronic components can be more biodegradable. This research is the first step and the first demonstration that we can improve electronics by applying biology”.

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