Discarded Human Hair as OLED Screens

Discarded Human Hair as OLED Screens

Have you ever wondered where the discarded hairs from salons and barbershops go to? A Multimedia Magazine Consumer Hair Editor named Karen Marie Shelton said in a Q&A forum that the majority of hair cut at hair salons in the United States is swept up and put out in the trash bins. However, sometimes there are special situations where cut hair is saved. For example, healthy long hairs are recycled to create wigs for cancer patients. According to Green Circle Salons, North American salons generate more than 400,000 pounds of waste a day alone. Based on this statistic, we can say that human hair contributes a lot to land pollution. This conclusion drove the researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to find out if discarded human hair can be of use and relevant in today's technology. As per their research, cut hairs from salons and barbershops can indeed turn into OLED displays.

The researchers of QUT partnered up with a Brisbane barbershop in ground-breaking research to turn the hair cut from the barbershop into an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. OLED is a flexible display that could be utilized in future smart devices. Hair is rich in carbon and nitrogen, which are useful in creating light-emitting particles. The hair is burned at 240°C and undergoes a certain process that extracts the carbon and nitrogen embedded in it. The extracted materials will later be turned into carbon nanodots which are less than 10 nanometers in size. Before the nanodots became an active layer in an OLED device, it will be dispersed through a polymer where nanodots clump together into what the researchers refer to as nano-islands.

The researchers stressed that as of today, the light that the nanodots are useful for small-scale displays only such as wearable devices. The reason for this is the light emitted by the nanodots. When a small voltage is applied, the nanodots glow blue but not that particularly bright. Prashant Sonar, an author of the study added that human hair derived carbon dot-based organic light-emitting devices could be used for some indoor applications such as smart packaging. Moreover, it could also be used where a small light source is required such as in signs or in smart bands and could be used in medical devices because of the non-toxicity of the material. In the future, the team would study if animal hairs from pet salons or even sheep wool could be used in similar devices.

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