Flexible and biodegradable semiconductor for electronics
Credit: Bao lab
A new semiconductor developed by researchers at Stanford University, USA, is as flexible as skin and easily degradable and is hoped to tackle electronic waste.
The team developed a semiconductor polymer that can decompose by adding a weak acid-based vinegar, a degradable electronic circuit and a biodegradable substrate material for mounting the electrical components. This substrate supports the electrical components, flexing and molding to rough and smooth surfaces. When the electronic device is no longer needed it can biodegrade into non-toxic components.
The substrate carries the electronic circuit and the polymer from cellulose fibres to make the material transparent and flexible, while still breaking down easily. The thin film substrate allows the electronics to be worn on the skin or implanted inside the body.
The electronic device could be used in wearable electronics and large-scale environmental surveys with sensor dusts. ‘We envision these soft patches that are very thin and conformable to the skin can measure blood pressure, glucose value, sweat content. A person could wear a specifically designed patch for a day or week, then download the data. According to Bao, this short-term use of disposable electronics seems a perfect fit for a degradable, flexible design,’ said Stanford engineer Zhenan Bao.
Although the polymer was found to be biocompatible, Bao said that more studies would need to be done before these implants are used.