Empa researchers develop sustainable sensors and displays


Dübendorf ZH – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) have developed a biodegradable material that changes color, conducts electricity and is suitable for 3D printing. This can be used to produce sustainable sensors and displays.

Researchers in Empa’s Cellulose & Wood Materials laboratory have developed a biodegradable material that changes color when exposed to heat, conducts electricity and can be used in 3D printing. The new material consists of hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) to which carbon nanotubes and cellulose nanofibers are added in small proportions by mass, Empa informs in a related release. The carbon nanotubes are responsible for the conductivity of the material. The cellulose nanofibers make the material suitable for 3D printing.

HCP, in turn, allows you to color the material. When water is added, the cellulose type forms colorless liquid crystals that reflect different wavelengths of light depending on the temperature. In the project, the researchers used the new material to produce various application examples such as a strain sensor or a display made of electrically controlled segments.

“We have already developed various electronic components based on cellulose in our laboratory, such as batteries and sensors,” Empa researcher Xavier Aeby is quoted as saying in the release. “This is now the first time we have also been able to develop a cellulose-based display.” According to the researchers, the new material has great potential. “Sustainable materials that can be 3D printed are of great interest, including applications in biodegradable electronics and the Internet of Things,” says lab manager Gustav Nyström. ce/hs