Everyday products such as bandages, nappies or plasters will acquire new functions and will be able to monitor our biomedical parameters such as pH balance, moisture or glucose, with the added advantage of being environmentally friendly. The aim of WASP, a European research project which will begin in 2019 and end in 2022, is to make these everyday objects “intelligent”, beginning with a study of the prototypes and leading to large scale industrial design.
WASP is coordinated by the University of Pisa and includes a series of partners both scientific (Manchester University, Tor Vergata University of Rome, the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne) and industrial such as Quantavis, a spin-off from the University of Pisa, and Essity, one of the world’s leading companies in the health and hygiene sector, well known for popular brands like the paper tissues “Tempo”.The project was awarded funding through the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) part of the Horizon 2020 programme.
One of the innovative aspects of the WASP project – the acronym stands for Wearable Applications enabled by electronics Systems on Paper - is in fact to be found in the paper on which the electronic devices and circuits will be printed.
“We aim to revolutionize flexible and wearable electronics,” explains Professor Gianluca Fiori from the Department of Information Engineering at the University of Pisa, “by developing new technology for printing electronic devices and circuits on paper which is a flexible and foldable low cost substratum that is also biodegradable, easily found in nature and compatible with large scale industrial production.”
The ever-increasing demand for electronic products is creating growing concern in the area of environmental sustainability, not least towards the problem of the disposal of these products at the end of their service life. In 2016, for example, an enormous amount of waste was generated worldwide by electric and electronic devices (RAEE), equivalent to 44.7 million tonnes (mt), which is expected to rise to 52.3 million tonnes by 2021.
“The use of sustainable resources is one of the main challenges facing new electronics,” concludes Fiori. “The WASP technology is based on a process which respects the environment. At the end of the project we will have created a prototype with a paper base that can measure biometric parameters (moisture, pH balance, glucose levels) and is able to communicate with an external reader also created within the project.”