3D printed IoT sensors are more sustainable

Thursday, 21 February, 2019

3D printed IoT sensors are more sustainable

Canadian researchers are developing an eco-friendly, 3D-printable solution for producing wireless Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that can be used and disposed of without contaminating the environment.

Led by Professor Woo Soo Kim from Simon Fraser University (SFU), the team’s research involves the use of a wood-derived cellulose material to replace the plastics and polymeric materials currently used in electronics. Additionally, 3D printing can give flexibility to add or embed functions onto 3D shapes or textiles, creating greater functionality.

“Our eco-friendly, 3D-printed cellulose sensors can wirelessly transmit data during their life, and then can be disposed without concern of environmental contamination,” Prof Kim said.

“This development will help to advance green electronics. For example, the waste from printed circuit boards is a hazardous source of contamination to the environment. If we are able to change the plastics in PCB to cellulose composite materials, recycling of metal components on the board could be collected in a much easier way.”

Prof Kim’s research program spans two international collaborative projects, including the latest focusing on the eco-friendly cellulose material-based chemical sensors with collaborators from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science (EMPA). This research has been published in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.

He is also collaborating with South Korean researchers from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) and PROTEM, a technology-based company, for the development of printable conductive ink materials.

In this second project, researchers have developed a breakthrough in embossing process technology — one that can freely imprint fine circuit patterns on flexible polymer substrate, a necessary component of electronic products.

Embossing technology is applied for the mass imprinting of precise patterns at a low unit cost. However, Prof Kim said it can only imprint circuit patterns that are imprinted beforehand on the pattern stamp, and the entire, costly stamp must be changed to put in different patterns.

The team succeeded in developing a precise location control system that can imprint patterns directly, resulting in a new process technology. The result will have widespread implications for use in semiconductor processes, wearable devices and the display industry.

Images credit: SFU.

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