Wooden Computer Chips Bring Us One Step Closer To Biodegradable Electronics

Most computer chips in electronics are made from non-biodegradable materials that are eventually discarded into the trash and put into landfills after consumers are done with them.

A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory came together to help solve this problem by developing a new type of semiconductor chip that is less hazardous and biodegradable.

“Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it,”

…according to Professor Zhenqiang Ma, who led the team.

To do this, the team replaced the large support component that cradles the actual functioning part of chip with a wood-based material. Typically, this larger layer of a computer chip is made of a material that can produce toxins and is non-biodegradable.

The resulting “green chip” is made almost entirely out of wood and may eventually offer a more eco-friendly solution to electronics manufacturers.

A cellulose nanofibril (CNF) computer chip rests on a leaf. Photo: Yei Hwan Jung, Wisconsin Nano Engineering Device Laboratory / Image Credit: University of Wisconsin—Madison

A wood-based computer chip rests on a leaf. Photo: Yei Hwan Jung, Wisconsin Nano Engineering Device Laboratory / Image Credit: University of Wisconsin—Madison

As you probably know, wood often has a rough surface as well as a tendency to attract moisture and expand. These were two of the biggest challenges when creating a wood-derived material for an electronic setting, according to the team behind the project.

To avoid thermal expansion and to make sure the surface was as smooth as a normal microchip, an epoxy coating was applied to the surface.

Read more and the original publication from Nature Communications.

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