The integration of electronic devices with the human body is a growing need in deep tech, particularly in healthcare and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected physical devices that can collect, exchange, and act on data to make our lives more efficient and convenient. IoT integrated electronic devices, especially flexible electronic devices are essential for efficient data collection and remote control, enabling real-time monitoring and automation. Main applications include smart healthcare for remote patient monitoring, energy-efficient smart homes, and enhanced industrial processes with predictive maintenance and inventory management. Several applications, such as implantable systems that adapt to the body or advanced mobile or wireless healthcare solutions, require flexible electronic devices or circuits.
Flexible or plastic electronics, also known as organic electronics has emerged from the desire to develop IoT devices using low-cost materials that are not only functional but also environmentally friendly and economically viable.
Organic materials, consisting primarily of carbon-based compounds, such as polymers, exhibit unique electronic properties, such as tuneable electronic resistance, mechanical conformability, and in some cases, the ability to emit light efficiently. These characteristics have paved the way for the development of a wide range of organic electronic devices that have the potential to revolutionize various industries, including flexible displays, lighting, renewable energy harvesting, and sensing.
The market for flexible electronics is currently experiencing a substantial uptick globally. The growth of the printed, flexible, and organic electronics market alone is projected to reach USD300 billion by 2028. According to the Indian Cellular & Electronics Association, the future of the global display industry is also shining, with revenues estimated to reach USD126 billion in revenues by 2024, recovering from the pandemic impact that dropped the market to around USD100 billion.
India is seeing a steady growth of electronic devices manufacturing market in the current decade. This industry can annually create more than USD 10 Billion display export opportunities in India. The organic electronics industry aligns with India's broader goals by fostering innovation and sustainable technology following the principle of ‘Make In India’, which is critical for economic growth and environmental preservation. This sector has the potential to create jobs in research, manufacturing, and product development, contributing to the country's employment opportunities and technological advancement towards building “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. Additionally, organic electronics can empower affordable solutions in healthcare, energy, and consumer electronics, further supporting India's socio-economic progress.
Organic materials are often more sustainable and biodegradable than traditional inorganic ones, contributing to a reduction in electronic waste. Organic semiconductors offer enhanced sustainability compared to silicon due to their utilization of abundant, renewable carbon-based materials and low-energy, large-area printing processes, reducing resource depletion and environmental impact. Additionally, their biodegradability supports the reduction of electronic waste, contributing to a more environmentally friendly approach. Also, they are resource efficient as they can be produced using solution-based processes, reducing the consumption of energy and materials during manufacturing. Furthermore, the mechanical flexibility of organic electronic materials allows for the creation of devices that can conform to unconventional shapes and surfaces.
Organic materials can be sensitive to environmental factors affecting the long-term stability and performance of devices. Developing scalable manufacturing for organic electronics while maintaining consistency is an ongoing challenge.
The field of organic electronics continues to evolve rapidly, driven by advancements in materials science, device engineering, and manufacturing techniques. As researchers overcome challenges related to efficiency, stability, and scale-up, organic electronics could find applications in various domains beyond displays and energy harvesting. These applications might include smart textiles, healthcare devices, electronic skin, and even biodegradable electronics.
India is a vast country with huge potential for growth in organic display and sensor industry. The fusion of finance, research expertise, and market-pull will be necessary to launch the electronic device sector. There is already a significant local market pull because India is a major user of displays. The challenge is to assemble the resources and expertise necessary to spark the development of a national IoT sector. India can develop a flexible IoT devices manufacturing sector through private-public partnerships (PPP) with both private and public sector leadership.
The article has been written by Dr. Debajyoti Biswas, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Shiv Nadar University Chennai
*Some Data in this article are taken from ‘FLAT PANEL DISPLAYS - CREATION OF A DISPLAY INDUSTRY IN INDIA’ by ICEA and Grantwood Technologies.