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Organic Components May Enable Biodegradable Electronics Displays

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Suchismita GuhaWith the goal of reducing electronics waste — which poses significant health risks as it degrades in landfills around the world — researchers are developing organic components for screen displays that may one day enable biodegradable electronics.

Using peptides, researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Federal University of ABC in Santo André, Brazil, have demonstrated a tiny organic structure that, when combined with a blue light-emitting polymer, could be used in electronic displays. The peptide nanomaterials are based on self-assembly and mimicking strategies that occur in nature.

"By combining organic semiconductors with nanomaterials, we were able to create the blue light needed for a display," said Missouri professor Suchismita Guha. "However, in order to make a workable screen for your mobile phone or other displays, we'll need to show similar success with red and green light-emitting polymers."

In a study published in Advanced Materials Interfaces (doi: 10.1002/admi.201500265), the researchers describe functionalization of diphenylalanine (FF)-based micro- and nanostructures with blue-emitting conducting polymers of the polyfluorene (PF) family. The FF:PF polymer nanocomposites were synthesized by a liquid-vapor phase method. Electron microscope images revealed di-octyl-substituted PF (PF8) bound better to the FF micro- and nanotubes than with ethyl-hexyl PF (PF2/6), which in turn influenced its optical properties.

Illustration of a theoretical simulation of the distribution of the polymer on peptide nanotubes and an electron microscope image of the nanocomposite.
Illustration of a theoretical simulation of the distribution of the polymer on peptide nanotubes and an electron microscope image of the nanocomposite. Courtesy of Suchismita Guha/University of Missouri.

Molecular dynamics simulations of FF nanotubes with monomeric units of PFs showed that PF8 favored greater proximity to the grooves on the surface of the nanotubes, due to a higher van der Waals interaction energy compared to PF2/6.

Biodegradability tests from FF:PF8 nanocomposite films showed more than 80 percent weight loss — the measure of biodegradability — in two hours by enzymatic action, compared to PF8-pristine films, which do not degrade.

The scientists also discovered that, by using peptide nanostructures, they could use less of the light-emitting polymer.

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2016
Tech Pulse

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