The second month of the year is coming to an end. This means that it is time to look back and review the innovations that February has brought us: e-waste solutions, flexible microelectronics for surgery and salivary biosensors! If you haven’t had time to stay abreast of the latest news in printed electronics, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up.

New projects that would help reduce de e-waste problem? Yes, please!

Nowadays, electronic waste has become an environmental threat, to the point that it is now considered the fastest-growing waste stream in the world! This month, we talked about Assistant Professor Shweta Agarwala, an expert in printed electronics willing to accept the challenge of coping with this problem. She just received a grant from the Villum Foundation, a Danish organization that funds scientific, cultural, artistic and social activities, to start a research project aiming to create biodegradable electronic materials.

“We are rapidly developing solutions for sustainable societies with renewable energies, smart manufacturing, green aviation etc. But if the supporting electronics is not degradable, then the future isn’t sustainable,” she claimed. And we couldn’t agree more.

Flexible microtools for safer, more effective surgeries

Surgeries can risk damaging delicate biological tissues. Ultra-thin sensors fabricated using flexible microelectronics could be the solution, as they are able to interface with the tissue more easily, without causing damage.

This challenge was addressed in a study focused on “robotizing” flexible microelectronics. The devices incorporate sensors and artificial muscles, allowing the adaptation of the implant’s shape to the required geometry.  This technology could have numerous applications in the biomedical field, including safer implants and surgical tools. This could be the beginning of a new generation of microrobotic tools!

Shape‐Controlled Flexible Microelectronics © IFW Dresden

Electrochemical sensors for targeting salivary biomarkers

While collecting blood samples requires skilled personnel and can be complicated for the patient, collecting saliva is convenient and a non-invasive technique. That’s the main reason why it would be an advantage to develop saliva tests over blood tests. However, there are some limitations in saliva testing that should be taken into account: the concentration of biomarkers is usually lower compared to blood and the data obtained must be treated to extrapolate the serum concentrations of these markers, which are necessary to obtain a concluding diagnosis.

Regarding this topic, electrochemical biosensors are especially relevant, and recent studies have allowed to overcome their limitations, especially when it comes to glucose, lactate and drug testing.