Organic electronics: the sustainable technology revolution

Estimated reading time: 3 to 4 minutes

Organic electronics is a branch of electronics that uses carbon and hydrogen to make circuits and other devices. These characteristics make them more durable, less polluting, and lower cost than traditional silicon- or metal-based devices. Sustainable technology will change many people's lives. And for the better!

Organic electronics, among many benefits, will be responsible for preventing the increase of electronic waste on the planet.

The increase in electronic waste has as its main cause the excessive disposal of electronic devices, due to the updates that occur in short periods. With the expansion of the applications of organic electronics in various areas, the impact, hopefully, maybe less.

Compared to conventional electronics, organic electronics offers the following 3 remarkable advantages:

  1. Low cost: a greater number of electronic devices for poor populations.

  2. Ease of processing: greater adaptability of electronic components, increasing their conductivity and durability.

  3. Thermal flexibility: ease of temperature changes according to the environment and its better control.

Some history of organic electronics

The idea of organic electronics came up in the 1950s when scientist H. Inokuchi discovered the first organic molecules to conduct electricity, which was the exclusive function of silicon and other metals. On the other hand, scientists W. Helfrich and W.G. Schneider discovered that organic molecules could also emit light, but the high voltage required was expensive, invalidating the project. In the 1980s, scientists Heeger, MacDiarmid, and Shirakawa corrected this impasse and discovered the conducting polymers (because of it, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000), molecules are known as "PTCDA", present in organic dyes, which are more affordable and widely used in today's organic electronics.

5 applications of organic electronics

1 - Organic displays

    Organic displays are known as "OLEDs" or "Organic Light Emitting Diodes" and consist of an organic film that retains a phosphorescence that generates its light rather than using a backlight. This light is produced from radiation generated because of an intense motion of electrons that lasts longer than conventional. The new wristwatches with glow-in-the-dark displays are good examples. As the displays have less circuitry than LCDs (Liquid Crystal Display), they are much thinner.

    2 - Organic photovoltaic panels

      The energy-converting devices that use organic solar cells are based on a principle similar to that of photosynthesis. Because they are recyclable or biodegradable, the panels last longer as their "Optical Absorption Coefficient" is higher than the traditional one, increasing the time of use and the cost, because the light can be absorbed through a smaller panel. This advantage would be great in Northern Europe, for example, where nights are longer than days and occur almost all year round. Another benefit would be for the poorer regions of the planet where electricity has not yet arrived. The low cost of power generation would favor these places.

      3 - Organic transistors

        Transistors are fundamental to the manufacture of all modern electronic devices, whether amplifying signals or operating as switches. Due to the flexible frames, the organic transistor (OFET, or "Organic Field Effect Transistor"), has become even more durable because it uses organic dyes that increase resistance and also improve conductivity, preventing the entry of impurities, responsible for interferences.



        4 - Nanotechnology in Biomedicine

        Another important application of organic electronics is in biomedicine, for example in research to cure blindness. A chip with electrodes coated with organic dyes is inserted into the patient's retina. The device registers light signals that are transformed into electrical signals and sent to the brain. Because they are organic, the dyes guarantee a longer-lasting and more uniform conductivity. Other chips manufactured using this technique may be inserted into the patient's skin to monitor their health.

        5 - Cellulose nanofibers or nanocellulose

          The nanofibers made with cellulose have great crystallinity, stiffness, tensile strength, and also a transparent surface. Its application is broad because, besides organic electronics, it can be used in other areas not commented on here, such as food, textiles (electronic textiles), and space. There are studies aiming to control the heating of the nanopaper so that it becomes a conductor or semiconductor according to the need.

          The bottom line

          Organic electronics might not replace traditional electronics in several applications, especially those requiring high processing speeds, such as traditional computers. But it can certainly replace the toxic material still widely used in the electronics industry. Its versatile nature, combined with the promise of environmental and social sustainability, points to a dead-end path of cheaper and more durable technological innovations.