Researchers at Umeå University have developed an open web-based tool to easily identify environmentally friendly solvents for printed electronics. Writes about this Nature Communications.

The emerging field of printed electronics is radically changing the way we think about electronics. Primarily through the use of energy efficient and economical e-ink printing on common surfaces such as paper and textiles. But many modern inks used during printing contain solvents that are unsafe or hazardous to both workers and the environment.

To solve this problem, Dr. Christian Larsen and Professor Ludwig Edman, along with colleagues from the Faculty of Physics at Umeå University, created the Green Solvent Selection Tool, which is now available for use on the web.

“Printed electronics will change the way we use electronics in the future. You will be able to add functionality such as sensors, solar cells, displays and lighting panels to a variety of common and functional surfaces using printing. You can create clothes that glow and make you visible in the dark, install ultra-thin lighting panels painted on the walls and ceiling, and flexible and lightweight solar panels that provide the user with electricity away from infrastructure, ”reflects Christian Larsen, Senior Research Engineer Faculty of Physics, Umeå University.

Printing is done by sequentially applying specially formulated inks that contain an active material dissolved or dispersed in a liquid solvent. The solvent is very important as it determines the quality of the ink and the final device. After each printing step, the solvent is removed by evaporation and thus affects workers and the environment. A major issue is that many of the current solvents in printed electronics are not environmentally friendly as they pose health, safety and environmental concerns.

“Therefore, we have developed an open web tool to directly identify alternative functional and green solvents that essentially combines a like-dissolve-like approach for solvent functional groups with a well-established solvent resistance or sustainability rating,” adds Larsen.