A sustainability challenge
The field of electronics holds an ambiguous position within the ongoing green transition towards a circular economy. On the one hand, electronics play a clear role for a sustainable future: e.g. e-mobility and smart grids are heavily reliant on smart electronic applications. Increased digitalization and connectivity are critical in the transition towards a climate-neutral society.
On the other hand, the “greening” of electronics remains complex and slow. The production and processing of base materials, such as high-grade silicon, metals and plastics, are energy intensive and environmentally invasive. Recycling rates remain low. The problem of electronic waste becomes bigger as the “Internet of Things” grows and the use of portable and wearable devices expands. By 2040, CO2 emissions from production and usage of electronic consumer goods are predicted to reach 14% of total emissions, one-half of today’s global transport.
Achieving sustainability and circularity in electronics is a grand societal challenge. Gradual improvement of current technologies will not enable a timely green transition.
PRiNGLE proposes a radical, innovative solution to help resolve this challenge: we will pioneer electronic technology that is exclusively protein-based.
PRiNGLE research program
PRiNGLE will give the fundamental and technological basis for PROTEONICS by (1) realizing HCP fiber self-assembly under controlled in vitro conditions, thus allowing scalable recombinant production of conductive protein fibers in “microbial factories”, (2) demonstrating that HCP fibers are performant electronic base materials, ensuring that electronic properties are stable under relevant application conditions (e.g. atmospheric stability of conduction), (3) developing fabrication and patterning technologies to produce electronic components from HCP fibers, and (4) showing that the HCP properties can be tuned through genetic engineering, thus unlocking a new class of electronic materials with functionality that is hitherto unavailable.
PRiNGLE will develop the first ever PROTEONICS circuit in which all electronic components are protein-based (wires, inductors, resistors, insulators, capacitors, transistors). This way, PRiNGLE will provide a convincing proof-of-concept for a fully biobased, CO2-neutral electronic technology where custom-crafted protein structures act as elementary active and passive components in a new generation of biocompatible and biodegradable electronic devices.