Self-powered printable smart sensors made by emerging semiconductors could mean a cheaper, greener Internet of Things

Creating smart sensors to integrate into our everyday objects and environments for the Internet of Things (IoT) would dramatically improve everyday life, but it requires billions of these tiny devices. Vincenzo Pecunia, a professor at Simon Fraser University, believes that new printable, cheap and environmentally friendly alternative semiconductors could pave the way for a cheaper and more sustainable IoT.

Leading a multinational team of high-level experts in various fields of printable electronics, Pecunia has identified key priorities and promising avenues for printable electronics to enable self-powered and environmentally friendly smart sensors. His forward-looking ideas are described in his article published on December 28 in Natural electronics.

“Equipping everyday objects and environments with intelligence through smart sensors would allow us to make more informed decisions in our daily lives,” says Pecunia. “Conventional semiconductor technologies require complex, energy-intensive and expensive processing, but printable semiconductors can provide electronic components with a much lower carbon footprint and cost, as they can be processed by printing or coating, which require consumables much lower energy and material.”

Pecunia says that creating printable electronics that can operate using energy harvested from the environment — from ambient light or ubiquitous radio frequency signals, for example — could be the answer.

“Our analysis reveals that a key priority is to make printable electronic components with as small a set of materials as possible, in order to simplify their manufacturing process, thus ensuring easy scaling and low technological cost,” says Pecunia . The article describes a vision of printed electronics that could also be powered by ubiquitous cellular signals through innovative low-power approaches, essentially allowing smart sensors to be recharged from scratch.

“Based on recent advances, we envision that printable semiconductors can play a key role in realizing the full sustainability potential of the Internet of Things by providing self-powered sensors for smart homes, smart buildings, and smart cities, as well as for production and industry. .

Pecunia has already made many advances towards self-powered printable smart sensors, demonstrating printed electronics with record power dissipation and the first printable devices powered by ambient light via tiny printable solar cells.

His research group at SFU’s School of Sustainable Energy Engineering focuses on developing new approaches to environmentally friendly, printable solar cells and electronics for use in next-generation smart devices.

Pecunia notes that the semiconductor technologies developed by his group could potentially enable the seamless integration of electronics, sensors and energy harvesters at the touch of a “print” button at single manufacturing sites, thereby reducing carbon footprint, supply chain issues of supply and energy costs associated with long-distance transport in conventional electronics manufacturing.

“Because of their unique manufacturing capability, printable semiconductors also represent a unique opportunity for Canada,” he says. “Not only to become a global player in next-generation, eco-friendly electronics, but also to overcome its dependence on electronics from faraway countries and the associated supply chain and geopolitical issues.

“We hope these semiconductors will provide environmentally friendly technologies for a future of clean energy production and sustainable living, which are essential to achieving Canada’s net zero goal.

Story source:

Material provided by Simon Fraser University. Originally written by Marianne Meadahl. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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