A Fishy Solution To Sustainable Wearable Tech

Films derived from fish scales could represent a promising alternative for more sustainable flexible electronics, including wearables and folding displays.

AsianScientist (Mar. 30, 2020) – Imagine being able to sport a glowing tattoo or print a stopwatch onto your arm. Flexible temporary electronic displays such as these may soon become a reality, thanks to a plentiful and biodegradable resource—fish scales.

In current displays, components that conduct electricity and emit light are layered onto a transparent film. To make them flexible enough to withstand the bending required to stay on skin or other soft surfaces, researchers have relied on films made of plastic, which is derived from fossil fuels and a source of pollution.

New research in ACS Nano describes a way to make these displays, which would likely be discarded after a single use, more environmentally friendly. Led by Yu Hai-Dong, Liu Juqing and Huang Wei at Nanjing Tech University in China, the researchers settled on gelatin derived from collagen in fish scales, which is usually discarded.

After preparing a gelatin solution from the fish scales, the researchers poured it into a petri dish that acted as a mold for the film as it dried. In tests, they found the film had the attributes, including flexibility and transparency, needed for use in wearable devices. They built a working alternating current electroluminescent device that continued to glow even after being bent and relaxed 1,000 times.

Importantly, the film also appeared unlikely to linger in landfills. It dissolved within seconds in hot water and degraded within 24 days when buried in soil. The researchers conclude that films derived from fish scales may represent a promising alternative for sustainable flexible electronics, including wearables and folding displays.

The article can be found at: Zhang et al. (2020) Sustainable and Transparent Fish Gelatin Films for Flexible Electroluminescent Devices.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock.
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