Packaging that tells you the condition of the food inside, paper that cleans polluted air and smart plasters that communicate with your doctor; these are just a few examples of what we can do thanks to bio-based electronics.
“I hope that businesses will be inspired, that they will think to themselves, ‘Aha... so you can use the technology in this way”.
These are the words of Pia Wågberg, director of business development and innovation manager at RISE Bioeconomy. She believes that, generally speaking, technical development is curiosity-driven and she is enthusiastic about the opportunities available to companies looking to exploit bio-based electronics.
“Many businesses and manufactures are only too pleased to discover new applications and we quite simply attempt to match willing, able companies to social needs and what is possible from a purely technical viewpoint.”
Bio-based technologies combine electronics with bio-based materials. Electronics are everywhere in our everyday lives; in our dishwasher, mobile telephone and fitness watch. Irrespective of whether we believe that technological advances will help mankind or be our downfall, electronic devices are here to stay. At the same time, their is an increasing demand for environmentally friendly products and this is where bio-based electronics come in. Having said that, combining these two fields is not only about making electronic products more environmentally friendly but also about improving the technology itself.
“Our point of departure is to combine the environmental perspective with making a product that performs its function optimally. One mustn’t solely concentrate on one thing; for example, using the forest because it’s environmentally friendly or using a given product because it’s cheap. We must take a holistic view; everything we do must be good on all levels!”
Applications in healthcare
There are a number of concrete examples of how bio-based materials can be combined with electronics. Conductive paper that acts as an air filter, food packaging with digital status labels or sensors that reveal if the packaging has been opened are just a couple of examples. There are also a number of uses in healthcare.
“One example is eHealth, where sensors in direct contact with the skin can monitor heart patients in real time using the cloud. With a small sensor attached to the patient with a plaster, the caregiver is able to obtain a reading of the patient’s heart rate using a smart phone, Another example is to help pregnant women to monitor contractions or their baby’s heart rate. These are examples of areas in which bio-based electronics can contribute to the solution,” explains Pia Wågberg.
The door is ajar
Bio-based electronics are interdisciplinary and demand collaboration between different fields of expertise.
“My own background is in cellulose and at RISE we collaborate with researchers in electronics. It is enormously exciting and of great benefit to be able to collaborate on developing bio-based electronics,” says Pia Wågberg. She also believes that there are many new and exciting potential applications for the technology.
“One example may be energy storage. Today, it’s all about being climate-smart, thinking sustainably and circularly. We live in a vast digital world of altered behaviour where we want more, cheaper and bigger. We have only just opened the door on bio-based technologies and in future we may identify countless interesting applications that we haven’t yet considered,” concludes Pia Wågberg.