Americans change their mobile phones every few months. While most people do not pay much attention to the fate of used mobile phones or where they go when disposed, the United States amass over 150 million junked phones annually.

The World Health Organization reported the dangers lurking in this massive mountain of electronic waste. Minimal exposure to electronic elements when processing electronic waste carry much health risk. Over 150 million junked phones a year can do a lot of harm.

Researchers from the University of Missouri are spearheading the creation of biodegradable electronics with the use of organic elements. This milestone research can lead the electronics industry towards a greener and more sustainable growth. It can also dramatically reduce the amount of harmful electronic waste not just in the U.S. but around the world.

"Current mobile phones and electronics are not biodegradable and create significant waste when they're disposed. This discovery creates the first biodegradable active layer in organic electronics, meaning - in principle - we can eventually achieve full biodegradability," said Suchismita Guha, Department of Physics and Astronomy professor at the MU College of Arts and Science.

Guha and graduate student Soma Khanra worked with researchers from Brazil's Federal University of ABC (UFABC) for the development of organic composites that will light screen displays. The research team decided to use peptides (or proteins) and combined it with a polymer that emits blue light. The combination of nanomaterials with semiconductors enabled the production of blue light used in handheld screen displays. But that's just the first part of the work needed to power a screen display. The process needs to be replicated using polymers that emit red and green lights.

Using peptide nanostructures, which are 100 percent biodegradable, the researchers found there is lesser polymer needed to produce the same blue light. This reduction makes the process nearly 85 percent biodegradable.

The National Science Foundation and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, Portuguese: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) supported the research. The team published their findings in the Advanced Materials Interfaces.

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