I doubt a decade ago anyone could have predicted this incredible boom on the market for electronics. The competition between the big tech giants to develop the bigger and better smartphone, or the next ultrabook, or paper-thin TV screen, is now more severe than ever. They all want their rival’s customers, and they are not afraid to use any means.
But releasing the new and improved product every two-three months, ultimately results in people ditching their old one more often than ever. This consequently results in much larger amounts of e-waste. The dangers associated with this are numerous- on one hand, the chemicals that are freely released into the environment are toxic and deadly, and on the other hand, the use of developing countries as dump sites to cover up the mess, hoping that no one will notice, is just very wrong.
Thankfully, more and more NGOs, scientific institutes and governmental bodies are beginning to initiate raising awareness about e-waste and searching for solutions to the problem.
A team from the Young Investigator Network at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) in Germany, for example, is working on a technology to develop a kind of electronics components that are made entirely from natural plant extracts. This will make them 100% bidegradable and compostable, meaning that once their purpose as electronic devices is fulfilled, they can be safely placed in the green bin, or in the back yard composter, leaving no trace of toxicity and pollution behind.
The researchers were already able to produce semiconductors and dyes from plant extracts and gelatin, where silicon is replaced by starches and cellulose, while the insulation is created from the gelatin.
The team is convinced that it is very feasible to produce 100% biodegradable electronics. They see a small challenge when it comes to making ink for printers, which will have the desired properties. But the guys are currently working on solving this, and they promise to have the miracle electronics up and running in the coming three years.
Image (c) KIT