Technology is awesome, but it’s often not exactly environmentally friendly, at least not when it comes to disposable electronics. That’s why researchers and scientists around the world are trying to find ways to limit e-waste, and this time, they may have found an unexpected solution on… paper.
According to a recent study, doing printed circuit boards (PCB) of paper could be the future of green electronics. This is what we know about it.
Right now, PCBs are made from materials that aren’t eco-friendly at all, including resins, metal wiring, and fiberglass. Found in so many different types of electronics, these circuit boards, along with the devices they are critical parts of, often end up in landfills, adding to the already vast amount of waste our planet has to deal with. Solutions are needed, and sometimes they are more creative than you might expect.
A research team from the State University of New York at Binghamton took a deep dive into the topic of creating PCBs on paper, and according to the study, they were successful. Called “Integrated Papertronic Techniques,” the study explores the embedding of resistors, supercapacitors, and transistors on a thin, flexible sheet of paper. At the end of the product’s life, said PCB could be recycled or simply destroyed without harming the environment.
The study comes with a quick diagram showing how such a PCB could be made, and it looks pretty simple despite being cutting-edge technology. The wax pattern is printed at first and then melted at 130 degrees centigrade to absorb into the paper. Next, conductive ink is injected into the pattern, additional metal components are silk-screened, through-holes are cut with a laser, and a gel-based electrolyte is added to the sheet of paper.
The inks are capable of forming transistors, resistors, and capacitors, and the entire structure is supposedly as flexible as the paper it was added to. It’s also thin and completely degradable – it caught fire and turned to ash as part of the tests. Alternatively, it can be dissolved in water and recycled to some extent.
Unfortunately, paper-based electronics have one glaring drawback: they’re unlikely to do well when faced with humidity. On the other hand, most of us tend to avoid submerging our expensive electronics in water, so for some use cases, this can definitely work.
We’ve already seen honey-based chips, and now we’re seeing paper-based PCBs. Whats Next? It’s hard to say, but it’s always great to see an innovative approach to current problems.