Biodegradable Displays?

By Tom Allen

Researchers have been investigating the creation of biodegradable electronics, in an effort to curb the rapid rise in toxic waste that the industry generates.

Illustration showing a theoretical simulation of the distribution of the polymer on peptide nanotubes and an electron microscopy image of the nanocompositeTeams from the University of Missouri and the Federal University of ABC in Brazil are looking at organic components in the project, which is still in a conceptual stage. The work demonstrates a way to illuminate small screens, such as those of smartphones, using organic electronics.

The focus of the discovery are proteins called peptides. These nanomaterials are completely biodegradable, and can self-assemble into nanostructures and nanotubes. A polymer that emits blue light was combined with the peptides to show that they could be used in displays.

It was discovered that, using the peptide nanostructures, less of the polymer had to be used; the resulting nanocomposite was 85% biodegradable.

Future work will examine the use of peptides with red- and green-emitting polymers.