The need for design-for-recycling of paper-based printed electronics – a prospective comparison with printed circuit boards

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Poster Number:  10 

Main Presenter:    Akshat Sudheshwar 

Co-Authors:   Nadia Malinverno     Claudia Som      Roland Hischier                                    

The present study compares conventional printed circuit boards (having glass-fibre and epoxy substrates and etched copper circuits) with paper-based printed electronics (offering flexible, bio-based, and biodegradable substrates with circuit design printed using silver-based inks) and assesses the relevance of e-waste recycling to the latter’s sustainability. Therefore, a comparative life cycle assessment between these two options has been undertaken and the global warming impacts were calculated.

The impact assessment results underscore that printed electronics offer a consistent sustainability advantage over printed circuit boards only through recycling of silver in the former at the end-of-life. Hence, design-for-recycling and recycling as e-waste are crucial to the sustainability of the current generation of printed electronics. Other foreseen waste treatment options for paper-based printed electronics, such as composting, and paper recycling, are likely to limit the sustainability advantage of printed electronics to circuits with small conductive areas.

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