Electronic waste has become a global concern due to the short lifespan of technological gadgets. Electronic waste has now been given a “second life” – transforming it into flexible biosensors that are cheap and easy to produce, according on a new study from Binghamton University’s State University at New York.
In a paper published today in Nature Communications, the scientists described how to extract the thin metal layer from a golden disc in order to make sensors for monitoring the electrical activity of the human heart and muscles, as well as lactic acid, glucose, pH, and oxygen levels. These instruments link to smartphones via Bluetooth.
The first step in fabrication is to remove the metal coating from the plastic using a chemical process and tape, then tape the metal layer down, and then process the thin layer to make it flexible.
The production process is completed in 20 to 30 minutes, releases no toxic chemicals, and does not require expensive equipment, which costs about $1.50 each. A sustainable method of upcycling this e-waste does not require sophisticated microfabrication equipment, expensive materials or high-level engineering skills.
To make the sensors, the researchers used a Cricut cutter, an off-the-shelf machine that cuts materials such as paper, vinyl, and foil stamping. The flex circuit would then be removed and glued to a person, and with the help of a smartphone app, a medical professional or patient could get a reading and track progress over time.
The researchers said that this time a gold disc was used, and in the future they would like to explore whether the same process could be applied to the more common silver disc. At the same time, they will also investigate whether laser engraving can be used to further increase the cycle speed of upcycling discs.
Josh Yang is a Tech Writer who loves helping people understand what's going on in the tech industry. He writes about all things tech, from the newest gadgets to how to get your cat off your keyboard. Josh has been writing since 2013 and enjoys discovering new topics and sharing them with his audience.