Electronic products pollute the environment with a number of heavy metals before, during, and after they're used. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronics. With flat screen TVs getting bigger and cheaper every year, environmental costs continue to mount.
Researchers Nadav Amdursky and Gil Rosenman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Electrical Engineering have developed a nano-material, applying the scientific disciplines of both biology and physics. This biological material is the basis for their new, environmentally-friendly variety of light-emitting diodes used in both consumer and medical electronics. Their invention also generates a strong signal that can be used in other applications in the nano-world of motors, actuators, and ultrasound.
"We are growing our own light sources," says Amdursky, a doctoral student working under Professor Rosenman's supervision. The organic nano-lightsticks he and his supervisors have developed using organic chemistry are made from carbon, making them cheap as well as environmentally friendly.
Unlike conventional light sources, the biologically-derived light source has a nano-scale architecture, easing the integration into light-emitting devices such as LED TVs and improving the resolution of the picture as well.
According to Amdursky, the light emitted by the new light sticks is not that different than that which emanates from today's inorganically engineered LED lights.
"We don't need a special plant, bacterium or a big machine to grow these structures in," says Amdursky. The core technology and structures exhibit piezoelectric characteristics, necessary for the development of tiny nano-ultrasound machines that could scan cells from inside the body. Piezoelectric motors or actuators are only dozens of nanometers wide, which can lead to their application in energy harvesting systems as super-capacitors — large energy storage devices that are necessary for the solar and wind energy industries.