Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has detailed how a team of researchers are working on turning coloured pigments into electronics.
Using organic a family of pigments called diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP), the researchers believe they can make wearable technology from bendable and stretchable transistors and biodegradable devices to solve the electronic waste issue.
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QUT explained that DPPs are carbon-based organic materials that are used for their colour as dyes and for their charge transporting and optoelectronic properties.
Optoelectronics involves devices that convert light into electrical signals and electrical energy into light.
"The next business coming is stretchable," said QUT Associate Professor Prashant Sonar, who leads the team of researchers.
One of the advantages of using pigments with electronics is that they can be printed on a range of materials, QUT said.
"This means flexible materials can become solar cells, transistors, and sensors and used in many ways ranging from medical devices designed to be inserted into the body to technology products designed to break down rather than end up as more e-waste," the university said.
"With the fast growth of high-mobility materials, they are increasingly considered for use in stretchable electronic devices that can provide unique mechanical properties including being able to be bent, twisted, stretched, and wrapped over irregular or moving objects," Sonar added.
According to Sonar, the properties they possess make them attractive for biomedical instruments, wearable electronics, bioinspired devices, and artificial skin for robotics and prosthetics.
"With these types of devices, we're not looking at the scale of 20 years or 30 years, we are looking at the scale of three, four or five years and for all these applications, low-cost printable organic semiconductors is the bottleneck," he explained.
Sonar's research group last year discovered a new material by combining DPP Pigment Red 254 and naphthalene -- a well-known ingredient in moth repellents.
The new DPP derivative, naphthalene flanked DPP or DPPN, has potential uses in organic transistors and flexible solar cells, QUT said.
Similarly, the professor also recently developed semiconductor materials using another class of an orange dye called anthanthrone which QUT said could be used in the future for "perovskite" flexible solar cells built into curtains, sail shades, or clothing.