Life cycle analysis of printed electronics on paper

Development of Eco-Efficient Smart Electronics for Anticounterfeiting and Shock Detection Based on Printable Inks

Life cycle analysis of printed electronics on paper

Printed electronics are expected to meet an increasing demand for improved functionality and autonomy of products in the context of Internet-of-Things. With this trend, the environmental performance of novel technologies is of growing importance.

The current study presents the life cycle assessment of two novel devices: an anticounterfeit label based on the electrochromic display and a shock-detection tag based on the piezoelectric sensor, designed for the use in packaging of pharmaceuticals and luxury items to improve the safety and accountability in the supply chain.

The devices are manufactured by means of energy-efficient printing techniques on a low-cost flexible and recyclable paper substrate. Comprehensive cradle-to-grave analysis contributes to industrial-scale energy and material life cycle inventories and identifies the main impact hotspots evaluated for a broad range of categories of the ReCiPe midpoint (H) impact assessment method.

Results show that major impact burdens are associated with the near-field communication chip and radio-frequency identification antenna, while the impacts of solvents, process energy, electrochromic display/piezoelectric sensor, Li-ion battery, and substrate are comparatively small. In terms of their global warming potential, both the anticounterfeit label and shock-detection tag embody around 0.23 kg of CO2-equiv.

Observations of these initial findings led to the development of several scenarios for the reduction of impacts of RFID antenna involving the flexography printing technique and substituting the silver ink with a copper-based nanoparticle ink. The development and investigation of these scenarios involved dedicated experimental work to reach a proof-of-concept and establish preliminary data necessary for modeling. Both scenarios result in a significant reduction of impacts particularly in toxicity-related categories and could play a significant role in the reduction of environmental impacts of new devices.

We have also shown that the choice of the substrate has a small influence on the overall impacts of devices and that the paper substrate appears preferable in comparison with PET.

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