In collaboration with a research team including Associate Professor Prashant Sonar, Professor Kane (Costa) Ostrikov and PhD student Amandeep Singh Pannu, and Professor Kin Lee of Griffith University, they have developed a method for converting tiny strands of hair into carbon nanodots. Researchers sliced hair scraps from Kelvin Grove’s Ben Skiserhands barbershop, and barber Benjamin Mir was happy to support the research project. To produce carbon mandates, the researchers developed a two-step process involving breaking down hair and then burning it to 240 degrees Celsius.
Professor Sonar and Professor Ostrikov, who were chief investigators at the QT Center for Materials Science, said the study, published in the journal Advanced Materials, was the first example of hair waste being converted to highly luminescent carbon nanomaterials from which flexible light-emitting devices. The processed nanodots were scattered together into polymers and then allowed to self-assemble to form nano-islands for a small grouping of nanodots. The formation of islands preserves emissions from a solid that is necessary to incorporate a nanomaterial into a device. These nano-islands were used as active layers in organic light-emitting diodes (OLED).
The study was taken further by members of the same team. In a study published in Sustainable Materials and Technologies, they reported that carbon nanotubes obtained from their hair reacted with “high sensitivity and selectivity” to the presence of chloroform. Thus, the element may have the potential as a smart sensor for real-time monitoring of chloroform levels in water treatment systems.
“The creation of valuable substances from human hair waste that makes potential use in both display and sensation opens up an opportunity towards a circular economy and sustainable material technology,” Sonar said. In the future, the team also wants to test damaged hair from other animals to see if their results can be replicated.
“We have proven that it works for human hair. “We’re interested if we can get the same results from animal hair,” Sonar said. Perhaps we can produce flexible OLED from sheep using small wool or pet hair salon dog hair. The creation of valuable substances from human hair waste that has potential use in both display and sensitivity opens up an opportunity for a circular economy and sustainable materials technology.